Businesses like yours are made up of people. And people make mistakes. Unfortunately, when those mistakes involve your clients, they can result in a loss of business, or at the very least, a frustrated customer.

But a mistake can cost you more than that one customer: an irate customer may tell a dozen of her friends — or even hundreds of her social media followers — about that negative experience with your brand, which means you’ve essentially been blackballed from an entire group of people who know nothing more about your brand other than that someone had a bad interaction with it.

And while some customers will be very vocal about their displeasure with your company’s mistake, others may leave without you ever knowing why. These unhappy customers may ghost on you, and you’ll never be the wiser.

And yet...a mistake doesn’t have to mean demise for your brand. It’s possible you can turn it around to your benefit, helping you not only keep a client but even turn them into a brand ambassador as a result.

Listen to Find Out How Your Customer Wants to Resolve the Mistake

Often, customer service agents have a scripted list of potential issues a customer might call about, as well as options for resolution. But sticking to the script often prevents a brand from really being able to make things right with a customer.

Your staff needs to engage in active listening to understand what the customer wants — an apology? A refund? Account credit? A conversation with the CEO? — to actually resolve a misstep.

Empower your customer service staff to make decisions that are best for the customer, or like Nordstrom, known for its stellar service, encourage them to take “creative action” rather than sticking to a script.

And don’t stop with the basics of making up for a bad experience. Giving an unhappy restaurant customer a free dessert is nice, but imagine what helping that customer get a hard-to-get reservation might do to change that situation. Suddenly that customer is not just happy, but he’s actually gushing about how you bent over backwards to rectify a situation. He’s going to tell everyone how wonderful your brand is.

Don’t Make the Mistake in the First Place

Sometimes rather than putting on your corporate thinking hat, you need to instead put yourself in your customer's’ shoes. Will this action make them happy or anger them and cause them to leave you?

I’ll give you an example. Credit card companies are known for mailing offers to entice people to become customers by offering 100,000 free rewards points for applying for a card. Depending on how these points are used, they could have a value of up to $2,000.

The problem with this strategy is that these direct mail pieces are usually not targeted, and existing customers receive them too. How would you feel as a customer of a credit card company if you saw that new customers could get $2,000 worth of rewards points that you didn’t have access to?

This issue is one that any company should resolve by offering existing customers the same promotion. Of course, it requires that customer to actually call and complain, which may mean it’s already too late to rectify the situation. But what if on that same mailer there was fine print saying “existing customers can activate this offer by calling us today?”

Suddenly, there’s no problem. You can guarantee that not everyone will bother to call to get the deal, but at least the mailer doesn’t exclude existing customers.

Be Conscious of When You Falter

You can’t expect your business to be perfect, or even to make every single customer happy. But it takes diligence to constantly pay attention to where you trip up, and then courage to fix that mistake.

Be open to failing, but strive to correct and stay true to your customer.