How to Handle Mistakes

Thread Title:
Defending the Mistake
Thread Description:

When a company makes a mistake, there is almost always one option that is taken: The wrong option.

Defending the mistake, despite everybody knowing a mistake was made is bad news. It breeds mistrust, and creates a serious "them and us" feeling amongst those that have to live with the consequences of the mistake.

The worst part of the defending the error problem is everyone knows that a mistake was made. Well, everyone but the decision maker, who refuses to acknowledge the problem at all.

Since the decision maker is often the business owner, there is little the other people affected by the bad choice can do, to help with the problem. They can try to offer suggestions, advice, and cost effective alternatives, but those ideas are often flatly rejected in many cases.

Personally i've nothing but respect for any company i deal with when, inevitably they make a mistake but, deal with it swiftly, professionally and apologise for it. It just goes to prove that not only are they human, but also that in a crisis, i can depend on them to sort it out.

Dealing with Mistakes Publically

Why not turn a mistake into an opportunity? There really is no need for a mistake (barring loss of life etc..) to be a total disaster - especially online. If you're seen to act upon the problem quickly, professionally and to the injured parties satisfaction publically then IMO it can only do your business good. Some thoughts on ways to do this:

  • Enable comments on product sections - and monitor them!
  • Intall a forum for customer support - and man it!
  • Issue a public notice on the website about the mistake, and again, enable comments and answer them..

Why don't people get this? To err is human, to admit error and handle it correctly and publically is a marketing & PR opportunity

original post found via Seth


Own up.

Very good point...when the mistake comes out publically at a LATER point...then multiple mistakes were made. It takes cajones to own up to a goof right away, and most people respect that. Seth has a knack for if only someone would give him a bit of SEO training :)

You WILL make mistakes...

Making mistakes is an inevitable part of doing business. Therefore every business should have a policy for dealing with them.

1. Find out the facts and exactly what happened, and why. Listen sympathetically and non-defensively.
2. Apologise sincerely and quickly
3. Ask what you can do to make the client happy.
3. Outline what you will do to correct the mistake and to help prevent future ones
4. Follow though in a timely and effective manner.

It's pretty simple. As long as you get defensive (or worse, go on the offense) then something minor can spin out of control and become a huge issue. If you deal with it as above, then even something huge can be turned into an opportunity for great service.

Nothing deflates a problem like "I'm sorry - what can I do to make this right?"


Profiting from (company) disasters

Back in the mists of time, I was at a presentation listening to someone talking about "praying for problems to happen". His point was that they were vital opportunities to establish your reputation. In those days I just thought it was more marketing claptrap.

Over the following years, dealing face-to-face with consumers in high-stress situations, I came to realise how true that presentation had been.

My ISP has pretty good prices, I can get someone on the phone if I have a problem, service is better than others, and I'll recommend it to clients if they are asking. So I'm a "loyal customer" - but if someone else started up and offered an interesting product, I'd give it a look. Yes, the ISP is a good company, but that's what I expect when I pay them money.

Now think of the times in your life when you've said or heard something along the lines of: "Well, of course, when we found out that we were stuck in the ski resort my wife was panicking about avalanches. But I've got to give our tour company credit. They phoned us, organised a helicopter and got us out of the valley. There's not many others that went that far. If I go skiing now, I always book with them."

The point is that problems are opportunities for you to shine. That sounds trite but it works. The bigger the problem - Nick said "barring loss of life" but I would include loss of life - the bigger the opportunity (and duty, in that case) for you to stand out.

Look at the outrage directed at the Swedish ministers after the tsunami. And look at the shining reputation of the travel company manager (Fritidresor?) who seized the opportunity to be pro-active for her guests and company.

Mistakes are PR Opportunites

Couldn't agree more with what has been said. The bottom line is that people want to be looked after. The more chances you have to show people how well you will look after them, the better they will think of you.

When the situation doesn't in

When the situation doesn't involve potential litigation, I agree that disclosure can and does often turn around a situation.

>Mistakes are PR Opportunites

And if your competitor makes the mistake, DEFEND him. It's a great way to kill him with kindness.

Killing with Kindness

Oooooh yeah!

There are a million ways to stab your competitor, but stabbing him and looking like a hero for helping him has got to be the sneakiest heh..

Fast Company have a short post linking to places where you can monitor for complaints about companies. Like..

but they're just the easy ones - there's a fair sized business evolving from monitoring blogs at the moment also - far harder to track effectively but potentially a great tool for early feedback and damage limitation...

I guess I've never understood

the seemingly-ingrained obviously basic-human inability to admit mistakes, wrongdoings, and wrongheadedness, not to mention plain ignorance. I'm probably the single most bullheaded obnoxious person in the world (excepting only Tred Barta - and if you don't watch OLN, you won't have a clue about that one!), but when I am wrong - and that's frequently - I will always admit it immediately, apologize, and do whatever is necessary to make amends. And that includes personally as well as in business, of course.

I think that those who can't admit their mistakes must have a self-image problem of major proportions. That's sad, because one of the simplest ways to implement understanding of yourself by other human beings (most especially those in other cultures) is to be human - by being no more nor less than fallible.... We are all fallible in one way or another. One just needs to acknowledge that ability to fall flat on one's face!

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