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#190: When Things Go Wrong

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, December 4, 2009
Updated: Friday, December 4, 2009
I made a recommendation to a client that ultimately did not work for them. I suggested using a specific material for a part and it failed to perform during the testing phase. I'm not sure what exactly led to the failure, but my recommendation was obviously wrong. Should I take responsibility for this issue with the client? I would hate to risk losing my client's confidence in me personally, the quality of my work and my ability to deliver excellent result in the future.

"I was wrong" is a tough admission for anyone to make, but it is especially difficult for a consultant who was presumably hired to provide their client sound recommendations. But sometimes saying these words are critical to preserving a long-term relationship based on client-consultant trust.

Address your concerns in a timely manner in order to alleviate your client's doubts and to prove that you are on top of the situation. Also, don't automatically assume that you are at fault (unless you are certain of it). You might start by stating that, "Based on what I've seen from the test results, there seems to be a problem with using the material I recommended and I'm not sure why. My team and I may have missed something in our assumptions or we may have not implemented it properly. I know this represents a set back, but I think it would be wise to investigate further why the failure occurred, so that we can get this testing back on track. I would be happy to do this on my own and give you my very best follow-up thinking and insights or I could work with your people to get the facts sorted out. At any rate, I will leave it to your discretion on how we should proceed. This type of problem rarely occurs, and I consider it a personal challenge for me to find out what went wrong here and why, and then provide you with a full report regarding the findings and recommendations for getting back on track."

Tip: When things go wrong, responding quickly and honestly to the issue and then doing what ever it takes to make good is an excellent approach to restoring client confidence in you.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  apologize  client relations  ethics  goodwill  reputation 

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