Forbes: Four Steps To Fixing Mistakes To Your Client’s Satisfaction

Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC





There’s a set of core values that we live by at my firm, and one of them is “excellence for its own sake.” We pride ourselves on perfect customer service at all times, but, being human, sometimes mistakes happen.

Recently we represented a seller, named Kathy, to sell her home for $335,000. Two days before the property went on the market, Kathy changed her mind and decided to list the home for $350,000. I completed the price-change paperwork personally, and everything was arranged.

Unfortunately, I didn’t tell my assistant about the change, and she put the property into the multiple listing service (MLS) at the lower price. When I realized the mistake, I fixed the price within five minutes and thought the issue was taken care of. Boy, was I wrong!

Two days later, two offers came — both at the original, low price. I didn’t know at the time that the MLS had recorded the price change as a price increase and published both prices throughout the internet. Not surprisingly, my seller was livid when she got the offers. Of course she was angry — I messed up. It was time to break out the four A’s of mistakes: acknowledge, apologize, amends and adjust.




Step 1: Acknowledge your mistake. 

There is often no hiding your mistake, and there no way to blame anyone but yourself. No client wants to hear excuses, nor do they want you passing the buck. They want you to stand up like an adult and take responsibility. The more you try to avoid accepting the blame, the angrier your client becomes.

I told Kathy that, in fact, the price was entered incorrectly into the MLS and that we only discovered the impact of that error when the offers came in. While it would have been easier to say, “My assistant entered the price incorrectly,” the responsibility for entering the property was ultimately mine, and I should have made 100% certain it was correct from the beginning. Had I blamed my assistant, my client may have (rightly) lost trust in me.


Step 2: Apologize for your mistake.

Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC

When you have wronged someone, injured someone or done something wrong, the correct response is to apologize directly and forthrightly. Nobody wants to hear, “If you were offended, I’m sorry.” That is the coward’s approach to problems. An apology that takes responsibility looks like this: “Kathy, I entered the price incorrectly, and it has resulted in an injury to you. I’m deeply sorry for my mistake.”






Step 3: Amends are made for the mistake.

Saying “I’m sorry” is not enough. When someone has been impacted by your actions, more than kind words are needed. While some injuries are unable to be fixed, per se, a problem with money is not typically one of them. Consider what you can do to reverse or lessen the damage caused by your actions, and present this to your client.

Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC

I told Kathy I would make up the difference between the price the buyers offered and what the home was supposed to be listed for — a $15,000 difference. Ultimately, I paid her to sell her home.

This is the point when I think most businesses believe they are done with the mistake in question. After fixing the problem, what more need they do?

Step 4: Adjust systems so the mistake is not repeated.

A client is usually mollified if their problem was acknowledged and apologized for and amends have been made. But, why would the client refer business to you or come back again after a mistake? From their point of view, you’ve messed up once, and you’ll probably mess up again.

Mistakes happen because the systems a firm has in place did not correctly anticipate the problem. After a mistake happens, it’s time to take a deep look at how the mistake happened in the first place, and then fix the system so it doesn’t happen again.

Most importantly, after the problem with the system is identified and corrected, you must tell the client. If you don’t explain to the client what happened in the system to allow the mistake and how it was fixed so it won’t happen again, they simply won’t trust you or refer you.

I told Kathy that prior to this situation, we did not have a clear system in place to have the paperwork updated so the entire team knew about changes. Further, we never had a double-check on the properties being placed into the MLS, because we never thought it would be a problem. I explained that we implemented a new system where all paperwork that is outdated is moved to a new folder so we can’t accidentally find the wrong price, and now all properties are held in the MLS queue until two people have verified all information.




When all was said and done, Kathy was reassured, and she felt like we’d listened to her, that we took her problem seriously and that we would never make the same mistake twice. She gave us four stars and a great written review. While I wish that it had been five stars, we did make a mistake and deserved our rating. The best news was that we didn’t get a scathing review that would have severely hurt business. That’s the risk a firm takes when it fails to properly address a mistake. Using the four A’s of correcting an error, your firm may be able to dodge the same fate.




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Source: forbes.com




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