Admit Your Mistakes

Something that a lot of companies seem to have trouble with is simply admitting their mistakes. They will apologize for you feeling that way or for the misunderstanding, but it is rare to hear a company say something like we messed up or we made a mistake.

Sure, no one likes admitting to mistakes. I certainly don’t. In companies, representatives aren’t supposed to admit to mistakes or errors. Nothing is the company’s fault – it is always someone else’s fault. That isn’t a healthy attitude.

While it obviously depends on the issue, a majority of mistakes can be admitted and the customer will be okay with it. For the customer to be okay with the mistake, the company has to make a solid effort at fixing the mistake and of course, apologize, but more often than not, the customer will forgive the company (especially if they have had good service to date).

Here is your new operating procedure for admitting mistakes:

If the company has made a mistake: If the company is at fault and has made a legitimate error or mistake, please follow this procedure:

  1. Explain the mistake.
  2. Apologize to the customer.
  3. Explain why the mistake happened. (Do not make excuses.)
  4. Apologize for the inconvenience. Assure the customer the mistake will be fixed.
  5. Work on fixing the mistake. (If needed, offer to follow up once the mistake is fixed.)
  6. Explain to the customer why it won’t happen again.
  7. Apologize again for any inconveniences.
  8. Offer appropriate service credit, compensation, etc. (To show our apologies or We would be more than happy to).
  9. If customer accepts, do the appropriate actions.
  10. Ensure the mistake is fixed.
  11. Provide the customer with your direct contact information and encourage him/her to ask questions if there are any.
  12. Before ending the interaction, thank the customer for his or her understanding.
  13. Follow up in 5 days with another apology and offering help if needed.

If the company has not made a mistake: If the customer thinks the company has made a mistake, but the company has not explain why it is not a mistake. Keep explaining until the customer understands. Fix any problems and try to alleviate the problem.

Appropriate Compensation: If the customer has had to pay for anything as a result of the company’s mistake, the customer should immediately be re-imbursed, refunded, credited, etc. If the mistake took a lot of the customer’s time to correct, a service credit should be issued.

Serious Mistakes / VIP Customers: If the mistake is a serious one or the customer is a VIP customer, apologize and elevate the call to a manager. Ask permission and explain why the call is being elevated (Mr. Smith, to help you get a faster resolution, I am going to give this call to my manager. Is that okay with you?). Answer any questions in the mean time. Do not elevate if a manager is not available.

That is your operating procedure for dealing with mistakes. Obviously, you can change it and add to it as needed.

How do you deal with mistakes?

5 Responses to “Admit Your Mistakes”

  1. Glenn Ross said:

    Aug 21, 07 at 9:00 pm

    Dale Carnegie said it best. “When you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.”

    Great post.



  2. Service Untitled said:

    Aug 22, 07 at 6:02 am

    He sure did! Another quote I like is “the road to success is paved with well handled mistakes.” Thanks Glen.

  3. Service Untitled » How Toyota Messed Up - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    Oct 02, 07 at 5:07 pm

    […] It’s about how you handle the mistakes.The road to success is paved with well handled mistakes (a post about that here). You will make mistakes and there will be faulty parts. Anti-freeze will explode, computers will break. It is inevitable. How you deal with those mistakes, though, is what will set you apart from your competition. Technorati tags: Customer Service, Customer Service Experience, Toyota, Car Dealers, Mistakes, Errors « A Positive Experience with Toyota?   […]

  4. Stop the Presses » Blog Archive » The Jungle: Crisis Lessons from Meat Processors said:

    Oct 10, 07 at 11:25 am

    […] Manage the situation: Acknowledge that something went wrong and tell the world about the steps you’re taking to fix the problem. […]

  5. Service Untitled» Blog Archive » Admitting Mistakes - Part 2 said:

    Apr 07, 09 at 11:07 pm

    […] of admitting your mistakes, but a quick search revealed I had already written about the topic back in August 2007 (this is what happens when you write a lot of blog posts). There is a different, though – the post […]