I travel quite a bit, about half of it business-related. Sometimes everything goes smoothly. Other times you can’t believe what happened.

I ran a meeting a couple of months ago. It took place at a good hotel. However, in the first day so many things went wrong I could not believe it. In particular, my laundry got lost. After several phone calls and some consternation it was found—delivered to someone else’s room!

The next morning, the general manager introduced himself to me. He was very upset about what was happening. Honestly, he was more upset than me, which was very comforting. In doing so he made me feel like he had my back.

The general manager asked me what he and the hotel could do to make me feel better about being there and to make up for what I had experienced.

At first I could think of nothing, frankly, except getting me out of there. I was planning on meeting some friends for dinner after the last day of the meeting. The hotel had a nice restaurant. So, later in the day, I asked the general manager if I and my two friends could have dinner at that restaurant.

The general manager agreed. And he wanted to make sure that we had a good experience. We never saw a check. My friends, one of whom is a foodie, loved the restaurant.

Why am I telling you this? As a service provider, you and your company cannot always control what happens to your clients. You do your best to make things go well, but stuff happens.

What you can control is your response. What the general manager did made it so I remember him, his caring attitude, and the meal with my friends at the hotel restaurant. The memories of all that went wrong are fading away.

When a client is upset try the following:

  • Listen, don’t explain. Take it all in. Make sure your client feels heard by telling him what you heard him say.
  • Ask the client what would make him feel better. Don’t tell him what you want to do. Most people are very reasonable and will not ask for the moon.
  • Check in after the make-up gesture has taken place. Ask the client how it went, what was it like, how do they feel now.

I ended up sending a thank you note to the manager.
Remember, your response is more important than the problem, in the long run.