When you Can't Meet Client Expectations

It happens to all of us at one time or another: You mess up, deliver late, or fail to meet a client's requirement. While it may be tempting to cover it up, not say anything, or make excuses, all of these can make you appear less professional than the mistake alone. Here are some of the best ways to handle client disappointment – assuming it was your fault.

Fess Up

Whether it was an honest omission, a blatant error in judgment, or you were negligent in handling a duty, you must always admit to the failure. While it's possible that something being late may fly under the radar (I've been there myself, I know) if anyone with a pair of eyes can see that you've goofed, it's classy to say, “Hey, I've unfortunately made a mistake.” Very few clients don't notice mistakes, especially when it affects their business in a significant way. Don't wait until they call you on it.


You don't need to grovel, but you do need to say that you're sorry. A simple, “I apologize for failing to get this to you on time” should suffice. If you've done major harm, however, (like compromising confidential info or publicly embarrassing them), you may need to apologize on multiple occasions. Also, make sure that your apology accepts blame. An “I'm sorry that YOU thought I'd have this completed” is neither an apology nor effective.

Course Correct

Now that you've gotten the hard part out of the way, it's time to prove your worth. Give a couple of scenarios for making things right. Let them know that any additional hours or expenses will be absorbed by you. Make sure that they are happy with the options, and let them decide which way to go from there. As long as there is time for a remedy, you have the opportunity to save a project from total failure.


People are human. Self-employedbusiness women are no exception. Be certain, however, that you haven't left a situation of disappointing a client without having taken away a valuable lesson. As long as your business grows as a result of new knowledge, it isn't a total loss.

When was the last time you've failed to meet a client's expectations? What lessons did you take away from the situation?

*Photo by Nima Badiey via Flickr

1 comment:

  1. Great advice. All too often people try to make excuses or shift blame. While owning up to your mistakes is tough people while respect you for it in the end.


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