How to Right a Wrong

Stuff happens, even to the best designers. Goods get damaged, a subcontractor’s crew fails to show, the shop doesn’t make its delivery deadline, the client doesn’t like the new wallpaper. The list goes on and on. You can’t avoid them, but how you deal with them shows your true professionalism.

Coping with mistakes and mishaps is just part of operating a service business. You have to expect and plan for them. In the hospitality industry, they call this having a “customer recovery” strategy. You want to have a policy and process in place for dealing with customer complaints – be they clients, vendors, consultants or subcontractors – so that you don’t lose that customer as a result of a foul up. A hospitality research study found that that 81% of consumers who encountered problems but got great service recovery were very likely to continue doing business with the recovering company, whereas 57% of those who were dissatisfied with the recovery service were unlikely to ever do business again with the recovering company. The numbers speak for themselves.

If something does go awry during a project or client visit, correct the problem before it gets out of hand. The sooner, the better. Acknowledge it and fix it as best as you can. If the client is dissatisfied with a choice they’ve made but suggest that you are somehow to blame, don’t argue with them or suggest they try to “live with it” for awhile. Instead, try to gather as much information as you can as to why they are dissatisfied and what their expectations were, so you can avoid another disconnect. In the long run, correcting a problem is cheaper than losing a customer and perhaps future referrals.

In addition, there should be a contingency plan with five percent of the project budget set aside for mistakes, so that when something does go wrong, it is corrected and you don’t take a big financial hit. No one likes cleaning up after a mess, but if you have a plan in place ahead of time it can you address it immediately and reduce its toll of time and stress.


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