Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Rebounding from a Mistake

Recently my overwhelming writing schedule got the best of me and I ended up making a mistake while working on a regular client's project. It was an honest mistake, and the client was very understanding about it, but this is a pretty big project so it set everything back a couple of days. I immediately apologized for any inconvenience my error may have caused and spent the next two days going back to make the necessary corrections. When I think of the time I spent doing a job twice all because I didn't pay close attention to what my client needed, I could cry.

Did I mention before that I am working on a bunch of projects right now? Sure, I'm busy, but that's no excuse for not giving a client what they ask and pay for. My personality type is such that when an error is brought to my attention I must immediately make moves to fix it. I don't bother making excuses. My goal is to leave each of my clients with a positive impression of our working relationship.

Of course, I am only human. I make lots of mistakes and try not to get too bent out of shape when I do. I make every effort to provide the same quality customer service I would expect when paying someone for a service. If you ever find yourself dealing with a mistake in your freelance writing here are a few helpful tips:

Admit the mistake and correct it immediately

Don't make a lot of excuses because that makes it seem as though you are unwilling to accept responsibility. Simply apologize for the error and correct it as quickly as you can.

Offer to discount the project

Time is money for your client just as much as it is for you. If your error has created an inconvenience that has left your client fuming, offer a discount on the project. It shows empathy and makes your client feel that you have their best interest in mind. Strive to create a win-win solution to the problem. In the end, it's your call.

Make fixing the problem a priority

The best thing you can do is fix the problem as soon as possible to prevent more delay. It sucks if you have lots of other projects going on, but you should follow through on your commitment to your client.

Always provide good customer service

I'm seeing a decline in customer service these days. I don't know about you, but I can't afford to lose clients by not treating them well. I was fortunate enough in my old job as a, advertising sales representative for a newspaper to have had access to some of the best customer service training. They spared no expense in making sure we understood the psychology behind handling customers unhappy due to errors and any other unpleasantness that could potentially affect their bottom line. I put all that good training to use in my own business.

Even if you weren't formally trained, providing good customer service is largely a matter of aplying common sense. You treat others the way you want to be treated. Every situation may not end up the way you hope, but you'll find that many clients will stick with you when you treat them right.


Laquita said...

Your posts are always so informative.

I agree about customer service - great customer service always brings the customer back - learned that in retail :o)

Kimberly Ben said...

Thank you for the kind complement, Laquita. I know that for me getting poor customer service is a deal breaker, so I try to do unto others...

Lori said...

When I screw up, I fix it on my own dime. Any additional time needed thanks to my mess up is not billed to the client. I apologize, fix it immediately, and move on. If we dwell, we'll drive ourselves nuts. :))

Kimberly Ben said...

I agree about not dwelling on it. It can drive you nuts and cause the client to panic more than is necessary.

hcm said...

Great post on an important topic.

As one who screws up on a regular basis, I continue to be impressed by the power of the honest admission, followed by a detailed plan to fix the problem.

In an age of dwindling attention to customer service, I find that many people expect little more than a list of excuses (in other words, a defensive screed about why it really wasn't my fault).

Service providers who 'fess up to what they did wrong, & immediately take steps to rectify the situation aren't only making the best of a bad situation, but are also impressing their customers with honesty, transparency, & redoubled effort -- valuable commodities in any era, but (I believe) especially important today.

Kimberly Ben said...

hem, I appreciate you being so honest admitting that you sometimes make mistakes. I feel so much better now posting my experience knowing that I am not the only one. I tend to beat myself up over things like this, but as Lori wisely said, it's better to admit it, fix it and not dwell on it.

I like to think that what you said about THE WAY clients perceive service providers who immediately fess up and fix the problem is true. :)

Devon Ellington said...

You make wonderful points.

I know how upsetting it is to make a mistake and how hard it is to stop giving yourself grief.

You took all the right steps and immediately fixed it, proving to your client that you take responsibility and action.

I am a huge customer service harridan. I stop doing business with companies that treat me badly -- and I report them to the BBB if the manager or owner won't take my complaint seriously.

Kimberly Ben said...

Devon, your feedback means a lot. I'm like you - I don't waste time doing business with companies that have poor customer service.

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