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How to win when you fail

Businesses inevitably make mistakes. Here are four ways to rise up and make it up to customers who may have been affected by those shortcomings.
By Joshua Steimle |
How to win when you fail

If you're an entrepreneur, you will fail. Sometime, somewhere, to some degree, you will inevitably fall short. You will forget to follow through on a commitment to an employee, partner, or customer. You'll be late to a meeting. You'll make a bad choice. You'll exercise poor judgment. You will make a mistake.

How you react when you fail will say a lot about who you are as a person, and will be a critical factor in determining how successful you are in business in ways that go beyond financial. But many of us make a mistake and then compound it with further mistakes, not because we have bad intentions, but because we simply do not know what to do. Assuming your heart is in the right place, here are four steps to increase your odds of winning when you fail.

Related: Customer retention begins on the front lines


Take full responsibility for the failure.
Don't dodge. The problem with dodging responsibility, apart from it simply being unethical or downright dishonest in most situations, is that what you are telling your customer is "I do not have the power to provide the level of service you expect." Is that the message you want to send your customers?



Unfairly compensate your customer.
Some businesses offer freebies and other added perks to customers who have valid complaints. If it gets very obvious that such complaints can further hurt the business' image, don't hesitate to make it up to the aggrieved party, and be generous when doing so to pacify or win back that complainant. If you unfairly compensate your customer to their benefit, your company's actions may one day become the stuff of legend.

Related: Experience your brand from your customers' perspective


how_to_win_when_you_fail_2.pngExplain why the failure will not happen again.
Your customers are looking for an excuse to stick with you. They've made an investment. Switching to another company is time consuming, bothersome, expensive, and potentially risky, since the customer has no guarantee that things won't be worse with a new vendor. The customer wants to continue working with your company, but needs to know that the problem won't happen again. It's not enough to merely ensure the problem won't happen again; you also need to make sure the customer understands this.



Never do it again.
"Let me down once, shame on you. Let me down twice, shame on me." Everyone fails now and then. Most customers are reasonable people who understand this. When a vendor fails two or more times in the same way, the customer begins to realize this is not a one-time occurrence, but a rather inconvenient pattern. At some point, the time, cost, and risk of finding a new vendor eclipses the time, cost, and risk of staying with you, and then the customer is gone.

Have you ever failed to deliver on a customer's expectations? How did you handle the situation?

Related: The ethics coach on cash deals, transparency, and more



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This article originally appeared on Minor edits have been done by the editor.

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