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Over the summer, we were working with a leading high street retailer who wanted to use analytics to make sense of their customer base, but there was a slight mismatch between expectations on each side. They were upset because we hadn’t achieved their goal, and we were keen to get to the bottom of what we needed to do, to resolve the issue, in a timely manner.

Here’s what we remember to do when things don’t go to plan:

  • Keep quiet and listen – We take on board what our client is saying, and try to understand and acknowledge their feelings.
  • Don’t react by being defensive – We realise it’s not a personal attack and often the most demanding client is also the most enthusiastic. People may be dealing with extreme pressure, which we’re not aware of, and we all need to take a deep breath. 
  • Pull out all the stops. We take action quickly to resolve the issue.

That means getting the best brains in the business onto the problem.

We can draw on the wider resources of the Merkle Aquila group – on people with a different perspective, different experience of something similar; who aren’t as emotionally invested.

We have excellent internal communication channels which we can use to ask for help; you never know who it is within the business who might have a good idea.

  • Draw up a timeline to show the client what we can do, to make it the best possible piece of work for them.
  • Carry out a post-mortem. We often have two: one internally where we reflect on the learning, and one with the client where it’s important to be open and honest. On this occasion, we found out they were delighted with what we’d done and are using the solution in the business.

I firmly believe that every failure is followed by a success. Let’s take our client, who I mentioned at the start. Things turned out better in the end because we worked together to come up with a solution, and as a result, our relationship got stronger.

Will we fail again? I’m sure it will happen, and next time we’ll be better prepared. We will fail, then succeed, maybe fail again. Tomorrow is another opportunity to get it right.


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