Recovering After Starting Off Badly

We all have those moments where our first impression is not quite our best. We show up to meet the new clients only to discover we’ve worn two different-colored shoes or we forget an assignment from a new customer or we call assuming someone is a “Mr.” when they’re in fact a “Ms.” Today’s topic (courtesy of my mentor D2) addresses how to handle getting back on track if you start off on the wrong foot. The good news is, most of the time, these situations are not fatal for your business relationships.

We All Make Mistakes

I don’t start my day looking for ways to embarrass myself or irritate a client. That doesn’t mean it never happens. The worst outcome I ever experienced from a bad first impression–the result of missing an assignment for a primary customer I had just started supporting–was a serious blush and a brief, blunt discussion with my manager after the fact. I did not lose my job.

Additionally, I did not freeze up or spend an unnecessarily long amount of time apologizing for the oversight. Harping on the error aloud doesn’t do you much good. Later on, once things are back on track, you might even joke about the situation.

In the case of the client whose assignment I forgot to do, I took my usual approach:

  • Ap0logized.
  • Assured the client that the error will not occur.
  • Provided a reasonable timeline for when the work would be completed.
  • Made it happen.

That’s it. Your customer does not require a lot of groveling or excessive apologizing. That just calls more attention to the error than might be warranted. I might’ve spent a little time internally beating myself up for screwing up, but in the end, my desire to fix things and do the job promptly helped me focus and get back on track. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, move on.

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About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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2 Responses to Recovering After Starting Off Badly

  1. Larry Kunz says:

    Nice. That’s excellent advice, not to dwell on the mistake. It only hurts you, and it hurts your relationships with the other stakeholders.

    You didn’t mention — probably because it wouldn’t occur to you to do it — the thing a lot of people do: evade responsibility, usually by casting blame on others. “I missed the assignment — but the customer didn’t make the schedule clear.” “Sorry I called you Ms. — but up to now, every Lynn I’ve ever met was a woman.”

    So, at the top of your “usual approach” list, I’d add “Admit you were wrong.” Then apologize, assure them it won’t happen again, etc.

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