We’ve all done it. And I’m pretty sure we all hate it. It’s a fact of life that not everyone is perfect, and handling mistakes when it comes to our clients and customers is something every business owner – heck, everyone that has a job – needs to learn how to do.
Growing up, my dad owned a residential building company, and one thing I remember him telling me when I started my business was: “Stacy, yes, you’re selling bookkeeping services, but your greatest commodity is your reputation, integrity, and trustworthiness. Never forget that.”.
This is exactly the foundation on which I’ve built Kildal Services LLC – as a company that provides bookkeeping, payroll and related consulting, our clients have to trust us. I’ve found, over the last 10 years of running my business, that how mistakes are handled is a great way to solidify that trust, and there are two incidents that specifically come to mind.
The first was shortly after I had started Kildal Services LLC, and with my first client, and it was horrifying to me. I would go out to his offices every 2 weeks, and in between, he would fax me sales reports along with a list of checks he’d written and deposits he’d made. He accidently printed a duplicate report, and when I didn’t catch it and entered the sales in again, his bank account balance was overstated.
I didn’t realize what had happened until I saw three checks hit account… and bounced. He incurred $75 in fees. It was a knee-jerk reaction on my part: I immediately dropped a payment in the mail to cover the fees, found out WHY that had happened, and called him to let him know the situation. I fully expected him to fire me.
He didn’t fire me, and I still have him as a client today. In fact, he was completely understanding, thanked me for letting him know and for reimbursing him the fees, and said he was sorry for sending the duplicate report. I let him know that I absolutely should have caught that, and explained my plan to change our process so that we could avoid the problem again.
It’s taken me the better part of ten years to understand this – what might be freaking me out, may not even be an issue for the client, which is the exact thing that happened in the more recent screw up we had.
We have a QuickReview™ process for our clients: we analyze their QuickBooks setup, then give them a detailed report on what needs to be corrected in order for them to have accurate financials. When we do the review, if the client is using a QuickBooks desktop edition, the year version really doesn’t matter, since we’re not making any changes to the data. However, when we give them their QuickReview™ report, we include an estimate for clean up – and then it does matter. We don’t want to open a client file in QuickBooks 2014 if they’re using 2013 or older, because when we send the file back, they won’t be able to open it.
And I’m sure you can guess – that’s exactly what happened. We sent a file back and the client couldn’t access it, and once I figured out what the problem was, I bought her the upgrade and immediately explained what had happened. We have since included checking year version as one of the items on the QuickReview™ checklist, so that we can avoid this situation in the future.
In each case, there are three things that happen when we mess something up with a client. (For the record, they all just happen to start with A. I did not plan that, but it works out well, don’t you think?) It’s three simple things, and we stick to this regardless of whom discovered our mistake – us or the client.
What we’ve learned is that by doing these three things consistently and sincerely demonstrates to our clients that we value them. It shows our commitment to maintaining a high level of professionalism and integrity and that we strive to be proactive, rather than reactive. As Jon Farrara says: our word is our reputation; our clients understand this and ultimately we strengthen our working relationship and their trust.
I was fortunate enough to get Bill Rancic, entrepreneur, best-selling author and television personality, to weigh in on making mistakes. Bill also happens to be one of the speakers that I am very anxiously awaiting to see at Intuit’s upcoming, one of a kind, event this October: QuickBooks Connect. I think his comment is a perfect way to end this article:
Yep. What he said…
Had your own big screw-up recently and not too embarrassed to share it? Tell your story in the comments below.