How To Recover After Letting A Client Down by Cindy Stradling CSP, CSL

Anyone who works in direct sales, either business to business or business to consumer, work diligently to follow through on the promises they make to their clients. This is partially to retain the client as a customer, but it is also a source of pride for top salespeople to always provide the products and services they promise.

Over time, for most sales reps, their customers become important on more than a transactional basis. They are not only a customer, but they are also a person you know and care about for more than a business transaction. However, even if you do not know the client that well, failing to live up to what you promised doesn’t feel good on a personal level for most professionals.

Sometimes, through no fault of your own, target sales aren’t met, products are not delivered, or even deadlines are missed. Perhaps a sale price you promised was not approved by the sales manager, or maybe the large order of product the customer needed for an advertised sale was shorted, or the order wasn’t entered into the system.

When you let a client down, there are things to do and things not to do. Let’s start by looking at what to do and point out a few common mistakes to avoid.

Address the Issue and Accept Responsibility

As soon as you are aware of the issue, take responsibility for the problem. Do not try to blame the shipper or the sales manager or the rest of the team. Instead, accept the mistake, error, or omission as your responsibility.

Never minimize or try to make light of the situation. This can come across as putting down the issues the mistake caused the customer or minimizing the negative impact your mistake had on her or his business.

Personal Contact

When you have let a client down, connecting personally is essential. This could be through a phone call or a personal visit, and taking the time to meet with the client reinforces the importance you place on the relationship and the client’s continued business.

This is not the time to send a text message or an email or to have a junior member of the sales team call and give the client the information. Personal interaction is the most effective and direct way to not only accept responsibility and apologize but to also read how the client is feeling about the business relationship moving forward.

Make Amends

When possible, finding something of value to provide for the client goes a long way in starting to rebuild the relationship. This is not just a small discount on the next order, but a significant way to demonstrate your commitment to moving forward with the business relationship.

In some cases, it may be possible to correct the original let down. Perhaps the business still wants the order, or a modified timeline could be created that satisfies the client’s needs.

The key, after any let down with a client, is to make sure it does not happen again. Before making any commitments to clients, always double-check and verify you can complete the action to prevent a repeat of the let down and the potential loss of the business.