"The Navigator" News Blog

How to Recover From a Mistake

Whoops!  We’ve all been there, right?  You make a mistake.  How do you recover from a mistake? Maybe it’s a big one, maybe it’s a small one.  I made one last week in this space.  I sent the Navigator out without the correct article link.  I loved that article too – if you haven’t read it, read Schrodinger’s Proposals.  But, in my excitement to get it out, I forgot to get the right article to link to the “read article” button.  Facepalm time.  Here’s what’s funny – I always test every link before I send the article.  Except last week, darn it!

I caught my mistake immediately after I sent it.  This is the moment of truth in mistake recovery.  What do you do when YOU realize your own mistake, but the customer (or reader) hasn’t caught it yet?  If you are a regular Navigator reader, you already know what I did – but even so, let’s walk through how to recover from a mistake.

  1. Own it. I immediately fixed the link and re-sent the Navigator to the recipients with the subject line beginning, “CORRECTED.”  I know that sending two Navigators within five minutes of each other might have been an irritant to my readers (and if you were one of those irritated, I do apologize), but it’s better to irritate them than to have them click a link to the wrong article.  When you discover a problem, own up to it, to the customer, RIGHT THEN. Get out in front of it.  It’s always better to be in front of a problem than behind it.  But, if they do discover it first, own the problem as soon as you understand it.
  2. Find out what the consequences have been for the customer. In the case of the newsletter, there were no consequences.  In most sales and business situations, there are. Never assume what those consequences are – ask.  The root of all good things in selling is the ability to ask the hard questions.  Ask this question.
  3. Alleviate the consequences. If at all possible, make the customer whole again.  Whatever damage has been caused by your mistake (and normally, if you get out in front of the problem, that damage will be minor), fix it.  No questions and no excuses.
  4. Don’t place blame on anyone but yourself. This is the time to take one for the team.  Don’t say “it was this department” or “it was that guy.”  You are the face of the company – so be the face of the problem.  You have all the time in the world to solve the problem internally, if others need to be addressed.  To the customer, it was YOUR fault.
  5. Go the extra mile. Now that you’ve owned the problem, fixed the consequences, and taken all the blame, figure out what you can do to give the customer something extra to make up for all the trouble.  What this is might depend on the customer and their needs – it could be something personal or something that accrues to the benefit of the company.  The only way you will know is by knowing your customer inside and out – you do that, right?

If you wait for a problem to be discovered – as all too many salespeople do – you’ll have a much bigger job of recovery.  Get out in front of it, and you will be in a much stronger position.  In fact, sometimes getting out in front of the problem can actually build trust with your customers.  That’s how to recover from a mistake.

This was a pretty good lesson – you’d almost think that I messed up the newsletter on purpose, wouldn’t you, so that I could write this article?

Spoiler alert – I didn’t.