The issue isn’t whether we make mistakes. We all make mistakes, some more frequently than others, and some mistakes more critical than others. The issue is: when you do fix them? Or is it safe to ignore the “little” mistakes?

As a service provider, I hate making mistakes that will impact my clients’ expectations; even if those mistakes aren’t catastrophic, they nevertheless diminish my reputation and professionalism in my clients’ eyes.

I said the hotel had five pools, but they only had four and a kiddie pool. Wouldn’t you know the client was keen on using that nonexistent fifth pool (in his eyes, a kiddie pool didn’t count as a real pool)?

And inadvertently omitting complete information also qualifies as a mistake in my book: “You didn’t tell me that I could get a fine for driving my rental car down a permit-only street in that foreign city.”

I hate hearing the words, “you didn’t tell me.” And yes, the client bears responsibility for doing some research on his own. But the fact remains that the client sees it as a failure of my responsibility to keep him fully informed.

I actively attempt to give as much comprehensive information as possible to my clients. Sometimes they tell me they don’t need all that, but it’s their choice to ignore it. I created a checklist of advice and suggestions and tips to include all the information that they might not think of. If they delete that checklist, they can’t tell me “you didn’t tell me.”

As a customer, I hate being on the receiving end of others’ mistakes, especially when they cost me money or misdirect me to the wrong product.

I asked an alleged expert about how to get from one station to a pier, and she advised me to take a taxi; I followed her advice, and 20 euro later discovered that my destination was simply on the other side of the building. I still get irritated about that 15 years later.

More recently, I changed cellular providers and was told it comes with this and that and even more. Turns out that promotion had ended the week before. “Sorry” doesn’t cut it.

I don’t think it’s ever safe to ignore what you consider a little mistake because you might not accurately assess how important it is to the client. When I mentioned the taxi fiasco to the “expert” who had wrongly advised me, she simply shrugged and thought it was funny. Not funny to me. I have not recommended her services in the years since.

If she considered this a little mistake, something to chuckle over, then which of her mistakes would get her attention? If I can’t trust her to remedy little errors, what confidence do I have that she would conscientiously rectify more costly mistakes? Or that she would even try to minimize future mistakes?

Honestly accepting responsibility to admit and rectify mistakes — maybe even before your client realizes it! — actively boosts your professionalism and integrity. Trying to cover up a problem makes the customer suspicious.

If you realize you’ve given wrong information or omitted something that might be valuable at a later date, then the time to rectify that mistake or oversight is immediately when you realize it. Not the next day or the next month or never. But immediately.

I was at a restaurant before the beginning of lunch hour and stressed a food allergy to a particular ingredient (I have learned that not all ingredients are listed on a menu). Yes, yes, yes, I was assured, no problem.

Our luncheon plates arrived for me and my companion and, you guessed it, the offending food was heaped on my plate. I called the waiter over, reminded him of the allergy to the food that was in abundance, and he apologized, saying he would get it fixed.

Meanwhile, I sat with an empty space in front of me, watching my companion eat. Watching everyone else eat. All the diners who came in after us were served; they finished dessert, and 45 minutes later, my companion and I were the only ones left in the restaurant. My queries to what happened to my missing lunch were answered with “it’s coming.” Well, when? When exactly do you intend to fix your mistake?

After 50 minutes of waiting, we finally said, “forget it; we’ll just pay for the meal we did get.” “Oh, but it’s coming.” Too late. You didn’t fix your mistake in a timely fashion, and now it’s too late. What should have been a forgivable mistake, one easy to resolve, instead became a final judgment on their standards of attention and service.

So, the window to fixing mistakes tends to have an open and close date. It opens when the mistake is acknowledged, and closes, well, soon. If it’s a complex error, customers are usually happy to be kept updated on the progress of the resolution. Don’t wait for the problem to be fully resolved without letting your customer know what happened and what you’re doing about it. Keep them updated at least daily.

If you expect to hear back from someone in two days, then let the customer know that info and that you will follow up in two days’ time when you expect to hear something from that person.

A friend recently experienced some problems with a large online retailer. For some reason, the retailer canceled his order and blocked his online access, “for his protection,” suspecting fraud. That was a month ago; phone calls to the retailer were not productive; numerous emails went unanswered; other emails directed him to log in and use FAQs (obviously nobody read his email about being locked out of his account!).

So, after a month of unsuccessfully trying to fix their mistake, he has given up. He has lost interest in restoring access to their products and will purchase goods from other merchants.

In the case of my missing lunch, 50 minutes was too long to rectify a mistake. In the case of my friend’s online retailer’s mistake, one month was too long to fix the mistake. So rather than trying to guess what reasonable time frame you have to fix your mistakes, it’s easier to fix them right away and not risk losing a customer.