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Between 2005 and 2011, IMC published Daily Tips every weekday on consulting ethics, marketing, service delivery and practice management. You may search more than 800 tips on this website using keywords in "Search all posts" or clicking on a tag in the Top Tags list to return all tips with that specific tag. Comment on individual tips (members and registered guests) or use the Contact Us form above to contact Mark Haas CMC, FIMC, Daily Tips author/editor. Daily Tips are being compiled into several volumes and will be available through IMC USA and Mark Haas.


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#705: Know How and When to Apologize to a Client

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, November 25, 2011
Updated: Friday, November 25, 2011
Sometimes I make mistakes in selling or delivering services to my clients. When I apologize, I don't want to make it worse and have clients lose confidence in me. What's the best way to apologize for a mistake and keep your reputation intact?

First, be on the lookout for a comment, action or outcome that is a mistake in your clients' eyes. If you think something is appropriate that your client thinks is not, then you have your first problem. Be sure you understand your client's criteria for success and high performance, even if it means talking to him or her specifically about those criteria.

Second, if you do recognize a mistake, don't wait to acknowledge your responsibility, even if it is indirect (e.g., when you are part of a team accountable for a mistake). Talk to your client immediately about the intended outcome and your role and responsibility for the mistake.

Finally, make sure your owning up to the mistake has a positive outcome. Both you and your client should be better off as a result. Some people offer what seems like an apology but really take no ownership (e.g., "If you were hurt by what I did, then I am sorry"). Others apologize but make no attempt to avoid the situation in the future or make sure they make things right.

Tip: When you realize you have made a mistake, create a strategy to make sure it doesn't happen again, even if it was not entirely your fault. Go to your client and suggest how, together, you can make the organization stronger and better able to avoid such mistakes in the future. And make sure you include your own behaviors and practices in that strategy.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  apologize  client relations  communication  trust 

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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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