No one ever wants to share negative news with a customer, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. When you have to deliver bad news to customers, it’s important to do so in a respectful and professional way to maintain positive relationships with your customers.
In this blog post, we will discuss the dos and don’ts you should follow when delivering negative news to avoid burning bridges!
The dos: delivering bad news
#1. Be direct and honest
The first thing you should do when delivering bad news is to be direct. Avoid beating around the bush or trying to sugarcoat things because this will only make matters worse and lead to confusion.
Being transparent with customers helps you avoid surprises down the road. It’s better to tell the customer the news upfront rather than trying to hide something from them later on, which may cause more problems in the long run.
If you’re dealing with a difficult client, be patient. If someone does ask for more information, give them the facts in a clear and concise manner.
Here are some examples of phrases you can use:
- “The project is going to be delayed due to scheduling conflicts.”
- “We will not be able to renew your contract.”
- “Our product development team has run into some technical issues, but we are working hard to resolve them.”
- “I am sorry for the inconvenience. We will work with you on how best to proceed from here.”
#2. Be compassionate and understanding
When delivering bad news, it’s important to remember that you are dealing with customers who are likely facing a challenging situation.
Be compassionate and understanding, and let them know that you sympathize with what they are going through. Sometimes bad news are a complete surprise to the customer, so they need time to process the information.
You don’t need to offer false hope or make promises that you can’t keep; just simply being there for them can make all the difference.
- “I’m sorry that this is happening.”
- “This must be really challenging for you.”
- “Is there anything I can do to help with the transition?”
- “I understand how upsetting this is for you.”
- “We’re here to support you through all stages of this process.”
#3. Offer to help
Sometimes the best way to deal with bad news is just to get through it. When you have to deliver bad news, be sure you offer your help or assistance in whatever way possible.
This will show that even though things may look bleak right now, you’re willing to do what it takes to make things better for everyone involved. It’s an opportunity to provide top-notch customer service!
#4. Apologize for the inconvenience
When you have to deliver bad news, it’s important to apologize for the inconvenience. This shows that you’re aware of how the negative news affect your customers, making it easier for both parties going forward.
It’s also important not to blame the customer, your coworkers, or anyone else for the situation. This makes it seem like you’re trying to point fingers, and it doesn’t make you or the company look professional.
Instead, take full responsibility for the situation, even if you don’t have direct control over how things came to be.
Use these phrases as a starting point, and then move on to how you can fix the issue or how things will change in the future:
- “I’m sorry to hear you’ve been having issues with your account.”
- “We’re truly sorry that our products haven’t met your needs.”
- “We’re very sorry for the inconvenience.”
- “Please accept our sincere apologies for the inconvenience.”
The don’ts of breaking bad news
#1. Don t be vague
When delivering bad news, you should never be vague about what has happened. This will only add to the confusion and make it harder for the client to understand what is happening.
You should also avoid being too cryptic or using jargon because this can also result in conflicts and angry customers. Keep your explanations clear and concise so that there are no misunderstandings on either side.
People tend to trust companies more when they can sense honesty and transparency in communication.
#2. Do not mislead the customer
This should be a no-brainer, but it’s important to remember that you should never lie or mislead the customer in any way when delivering bad news.
This will only make things worse and can damage your relationship with them permanently. If there are any aspects of the situation that you cannot discuss for whatever reason, be sure to tell the customer upfront so that they aren’t left wondering what is going on. This will help to soften bad news despite the customer’s negative emotions.
- “I’m not allowed to say anything about that.”
- “I’m sorry, but I can’t give you any more information at this time.”
- “We’re still trying to figure out what happened.”
#3. Don’t take their reactions personally
When dealing with customers who are reacting negatively to bad news, it’s important not to take their reactions personally and get defensive.
Remember that the customer’s problem might be difficult for them, and they may be upset about the situation. The last thing you want to do is add to their stress by getting defensive or taking their comments personally.
Instead, try to remain calm and understanding when communicating with an angry customer.
#4. Don’t leave them hanging
When you have to communicate difficult news, it’s important that you don’t just disappear after doing so. If the customer has any questions or needs clarification, be sure to offer your help in getting them what they need.
This will show that you’re still invested in their well-being and want to make things right again.
Try the following phrases:
- “If there’s anything else I can do for you, please don’t hesitate to let me know.”
- “Is there anything else we can do to help speed up the process?”
- “Can I answer any other questions for you?”
- “If you need anything else from us, please don’t hesitate to ask.”
How to deliver bad news in writing: samples
Example 1: Delay
I’m sorry to inform you that your order has been delayed due to a problem with our inventory system. We expect it will be back up and running within the next 24 hours, but until then, please accept my sincere apologies for this inconvenience.
If there’s anything else I can do in the meantime, don’t hesitate to let me know how we might help! I’ll follow up again tomorrow when everything is resolved.”
Example 2: Cancellation
Unfortunately, we have to cancel your order due to a problem with our supplier. We apologize for the inconvenience and would be happy to offer you a full refund or credit towards a future purchase.
If there’s anything else I can do in the meantime, please let me know how I can assist you! Thank you for your understanding.”
Example 3: No solutions
I’m sorry to inform you that we are unable to fulfill your request at this time as our supplier has discontinued production of the item.
We understand how frustrating it must feel, but please know how much we appreciate everything you’ve done for us over these past few months! If there’s anything else I can do in the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out.”
Example 4: Price increase
It is with great regret that I must inform you of a price increase for all items in our store. The cost of materials and production has gone up significantly since we first agreed on the sale, and unfortunately, we can no longer afford to keep our prices as they are.
We understand how this might affect your plans, but hopefully, with enough notice you will be able to find an alternate supplier or make the necessary adjustments. If there’s anything else I can do in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out.”
Example 5: Poor quality
I’m sorry to say that the product you received is of poor quality. We strive to provide the best possible products and services, and I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.
We would be happy to replace it with a new one. If you would like to do so, I can arrange for the return of your purchase and send out a replacement right away.
We appreciate your business, and we hope that this will not deter you from shopping at [Company] in the future. Please let me know how you’d like to proceed by replying to this email or calling us at [number].
Example 6: Against company policy
I’m sorry to say that I cannot process your return because it is against our company policy to accept returns on food items. I understand how frustrating this must be, and I apologize for the inconvenience.
If you have any questions or would like to speak with someone about this, please feel free to call us at [number]. We’re open Monday-Friday from [time] to [time].
Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.”
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes
When it’s time to communicate bad news, it’s important to put the customer first and brainstorm solutions that would make the customer happy. Difficult conversations may be uncomfortable, but they don’t have to be negative.
By putting yourself in your customer’s shoes, you can frame the conversation in a way that shows how much you value their satisfaction. The key is to show that you have good intentions and ensure that your customers feel heard and respected, even if you have bad news.
When you have to deliver bad news, how you say it is just as important as what you say. No matter how bad the news are, if they’re delivered in a positive way and with compassion for the customer, your business will come out on top of this difficult situation.