How to Deliver Bad News to Customers


February 9, 2017 —

Most reps will occasionally have to deliver bad news to customers. They have to report late shipments, stock shortages, equipment and service delays, and any number of other issues that customers aren’t going to be happy with.

So how do you deal with those situations? Is there an approach you can take to pass the news on to the customer without creating a difficult and emotional interaction that just adds to the stress? Is there ever a good way to deliver bad news?

Evan Horowitz of Evan Horowitz Advising believes that there is. “Bad news is something that all companies face,” he says, “but the situation can get worse if it is not handled well. Customer service reps can accidentally aggravate the situation if they are communicating in the wrong way.”

In the February issue of Customer Communicator, Horowitz shares five rules for delivering bad news.

Rule #1: Don’t be impulsive. Delivering bad news impulsively, as soon as you hear about it yourself is generally a bad idea, says Horowitz.

A spur-of-the-moment report that, “Oh, this bad thing has happened, and I just want to tell you about it,” is not the optimal approach. “The rep might be genuinely interested in helping,” Horowitz says, “but when there is a problem — especially if it is a serious problem — you want to have a completely thought out scenario before you let the customer know about it.”

Today’s checklist …

  1. Work with your frontline team to develop templates around how to address “bad news” situations — both for written and voice communications.
  2. Clear the way with other departments to ensure that your frontline team can get problems resolved quickly and to the customer’s satisfaction.
  3. Subscribe to Customer Communicator newsletter so that you and your frontline staff can receive ideas, information, and inspiration on improving the service experience each month.

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