You know the mantra: 

“Under promise and over deliver.” 

It’s practically in the online service providers’ manual (if only there WERE such a document, right?!). 

You know what you’re supposed to do – manage client expectations as much as reasonably possible and work your tail off to blow those expectations out of the water on delivery day. 

But what happens when that fails and you end up with an unhappy client? 

**Real quick before we jump in: 

Everything I share is legal education and information. It’s not business, financial, or legal advice, and it doesn’t create an attorney-client relationship between us.

Common mistakes online service providers make

Regardless of industry or experience, it’s likely we’ll ALL end up making a mistake at one point or another. 

Some of those most common mistakes stem from: 

  1. Inadequate or inaccurate documentation

This is the most common error and the initial cause of most of the other mistakes on this list. 

It’s also a huge reason why I provide legal templates for online service providers – because contracts, project briefs, and terms of service that are unclear or incomplete lead to misunderstandings and disputes.  

For example, deliverables that are deemed “poor quality” by a client are likely the result of inconsistencies in client expectations. (Which could have been mitigated by the right clauses in your contract.) 

  1. Poor client communication

Few things are as frustrating to a client as a lack of communication from their service providers, and I’ve seen this lead to a breakdown in trust time and time again. 

Prompt and effective communication is critical for addressing client concerns, providing updates, and ensuring alignment throughout the project. 

Just take a look at some of your competitors’ reviews – if they’re positive, I’d guess 50%+ mention something to the effect of “provided streamlined communication” or “prompt responses.” 

  1. Missed deadlines (without prior consultation or communication)

Life happens, and it isn’t realistic to expect yourself to hit every deadline you’ll ever set. 

But the biggest issues arise when you don’t consult with your client prior to actually missing the deadline. This is another example of how poor communication can bite you in the back. 

  1. Lack of transparency in pricing or billing

Yet another issue that can be addressed with adequate documentation and clear provisions in your client contracts. 

Unexpected fees or unclear billing structures can lead to serious client mistrust and dissatisfaction.  

  1. Overconfidence or misrepresentation of your abilities

Harsh but true, especially for new online service providers, is the mistake of ignoring that tried-and-true “under promise and over deliver” mantra. 

If you’ve accidentally misrepresented your skills or bit off more than you could chew, you’ll likely find yourself on the receiving end of an unhappy client. 

Understanding some of the mistakes of online business owners may not mean you avoid them happening to you. 

But at least you’ll feel less alone, knowing you aren’t the only one that they happen to. 

And what do you do if you’ve made one of the above mistakes (or stumbled on a more creative mistake)?

How to handle your mistakes like a pro

If you have an incident, there are a few steps you can take to perform damage control. 

Accept ownership. 

Thank your client for bringing the issue to your attention.  

Even if you don’t immediately have an answer, acknowledging that you’ve heard their concerns is key to rebuilding trust. 

Summarize what you understand the problem to be. 

Paraphrase the problem in your own words.  

This way, you’re not only ensuring you understand the issue, but you’re also giving your client a chance to see that you “get” it and aren’t dismissing their concern. 

Outline the steps being taken to ensure it doesn’t happen again. 

Part of trust erosion happens because of fear that the mistake will be a repeat or continuous issue for the client. 

You can alleviate those fears by clearly explaining what you’re doing to make sure the mistake was a one-off. 

Advise which steps are being taken to make amends to them. 

The last – and perhaps most important – part of addressing a mistake? “Fixing” it. 

Even if the mistake doesn’t have a traditional “fix,” offering to make amends either via financial or service means will go a long way in rebuilding trust and confidence.

For example, you might offer a discount on future services/products or replace the work that’s deemed an issue at no charge. 

Learn from your mistakes

The last thing any business owner wants to do is repeat the same mistake twice.

Not only is it time-consuming (and crazy stressful), but it’s also totally unnecessary to live through another incident like the one you just got through. 

Trial and error is one of the best teachers, right? 

So I’d strongly recommend going back to the beginning and amending your processes – starting with your legal contracts.  

And if you’d rather not figure everything out the hard way, consider grabbing yourself the templates you need to CYA in the future!


Ready to learn even more about protecting your business? 

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