How to Apologise to a Client When You Stuff Up


This post has been written in collaboration with Fresh Flowers

Have you ever stuffed up on a job? I have plenty of times. Often the mistakes could be rectified, but it would take time (and sometimes some money) to fix. When I’ve tried to fix a mistake, I have sometimes forgotten the cost to a client. The business world does not accommodate mistakes very easily because they cost time and money to fix.

Mistakes are also the first memories that come to mind when we’ve left a job. I still remember one of my biggest mistakes at work and it happened over 10 years ago.

I was working as a telemarketer for a transport company and I had to ring up warehouse managers to organize appointments for our Sales Reps.

Anyway, before I made one particular phone call, I read the notes that I left from the last time I had rung and realized I had booked an appointment with this particular Warehouse Manager. I checked with the allocated Sales Rep to see if she had gone to the appointment and she told me she didn’t recall receiving the paperwork to do the appointment.

I remember feeling the heat go to my cheeks and the frustration that I had missed organizing the paperwork for the appointment. I had a quota each week to meet, so I doubted I had made the mistake in the first place and internally blamed the sales rep as they had obviously misplaced the paperwork.

I rang the Warehouse Manager to apologize for not showing up to our appointment and asked if he was still interested in meeting up with our rep. He was quite shirty on the phone and told me he wasn’t interested in any future appointments as I had wasted his time and stood him up. After I hung up, I didn’t know what to do.

I went to my manager and explained what had happened. He went into PR mode and organized a bottle of wine and flowers to be sent to the client. At the time I didn’t question the flowers being sent, but I understood it was a tangible apology for wasting this Warehouse Manager’s time and also a way to keep the door of opportunity open for future appointments.

I can’t recall if we got another appointment, but I do know we did what we could to rectify an honest mistake. Many businesses can shrug off the responsibility of apologizing, even if the mistake was unintentional.

When I changed careers to plumbing, apologizing to clients would include calling them on the phone to say sorry, or doing an extra favour on another job – like not charging for a variation on the next project. More often it was simply going back to the job and fixing up the problem or paying someone to fix it if it was something we couldn’t fix ourselves.

No one likes to stuff up, but apologizing to a client is always a good start. Often we can get defensive over our mistake, but owning it and doing something practical to rectify it is a good way to finish the interaction with a client on a positive note. Giving a client an “I’m sorry” gift also wouldn’t hurt.

Don’t ever underestimate the power of flowers when offering an apology. Flowers will always brighten someone’s day. If ever you need an “I’m sorry I messed up” gift, you can order a bouquet from Fresh Flowers and have the flowers delivered in Brisbane and most capital cities. It’s a great way to apologize if your client is in a different city to you. It’s as easy as going on their site and ordering.

Have you ever had to apologize to a client? What did you do to apologize? Have you ever apologized using flowers?

This post has been written in accordance to with my disclosure policy.