Sometimes things go wrong. It’s that simple. It may not be as dramatic as dumping a drink on a patron, but if you’re in business, there will be times when you fail to deliver the promise of your brand the first time out.

To me, this is the true test of a brand. What do you do when things go wrong?

The first step is to own it.

Nothing will make a bad experience worse if you don’t. The order didn’t arrive. The wrong order was shipped. You spilled a drink on a customer. A customer was treated disrespectfully by one of your team members. Own it.

Owning what went wrong is a smart move. Not only does it make the customer feel acknowledged and important, you literally take the power to make it right into your hands. You’re in control. Why does this matter? Because you can only fix that which you own.

The second step is to commit to making it right.

Treat it like a project. What’s the timeline? What’s the deliverable? Who’s the person responsible? How will you communicate with the customer so they won’t have to inquire about status updates?

The third step is to follow through.

Make it right according to your word. This is your do-over, and everything is heightened. Your customer is paying very close attention to what you said you would do – your promise – and waiting to see if you tell the truth or if you’re a liar.

Tell the truth. Most customers will give you another chance if you successfully resolve what went wrong, and if you resolve the complaint in the moment, they’ll not only most likely do business with you again, they’ll be more inclined to let others know that when things go wrong, you make them right.

Next installment: how a true leader helps his team recover from mistakes.