Delivering Bad News to Customers

Everyone has to deliver bad news at one time or another. And it’s never fun. To make the task easier, try these ideas from trainer Andrea Nierenberg of the Nierenberg Group:

Do it quickly. If you string customers along, they will only become stressed and distrustful. This affects your organization’s reputation and its ongoing relationship with the customer. When you deliver bad news quickly, you leave the customer more time to regroup, or make other plans.

Accept responsibility. If your organization is responsible, take responsibility, says Nierenberg. “Getting defensive will only escalate conflicts.”

Be honest. “The quickest way to lose credibility is to lie,” Nierenberg says. Be candid and respectful.

Choose the appropriate channel. In business-to-business situations, delivering bad news in person or by phone is generally best.

Listen. It’s understandable that people are going to be upset by bad news. Be willing to listen and to respect customers’ emotions.

Let them vent and acknowledge their feelings. Until you hear customers out, you won’t be able to begin resolving their problems.

More on breaking bad news to customers plus handling nosey questions, and sharing a customer’s grief appear in the March issue of Customer Communicator, the training newsletter for frontline reps.

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