How to Deliver Bad News to Customers


Nobody likes to be the bearer of bad news. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to avoid during your career. Mistakes happen, schedules change, and plans fall apart sometimes. Knowing how to break the news to your clients gracefully is a skill worth its weight in gold.

Delivering unfavorable news is difficult and uncomfortable for most people, even those with years of experience. The ability to tactfully communicate that something has gone awry is a learned skill, not an innate one. Here are our top tips for breaking bad news to your customers:

Tell the Truth

In a tense situation, you owe it to your clients to be upfront and forthcoming with information. Tell them the truth about what went wrong and help put everything into perspective. By explaining the circumstances that helped bring on the bad news, you give them a fuller picture of what’s going on and what you need to do to resolve things.

Be Understanding

Don’t tell your customers not to be upset or worried. They are naturally going to have some feelings on their end about the news, and you should give them the space to process those emotions. Anger, frustration, and concern are all normal reactions to bad news, but how you choose to mitigate those emotions is what will make all the difference. Chances are that the information you’re delivering will affect your customer’s plans or business, so be sure to understand their position.

By acknowledging your client’s feelings, you’re letting them know you care. Tell them you understand they are upset and allow them to vent if needed. Remember, their frustration is not personal. When you validate your customer’s feelings, you’re building the foundation for a positive resolution to your situation.

Have a Plan

After you’ve broken the news to your client and given them time to process it, let them know how you’re going to make things right. Take charge and outline the specific plan your company will take to correct the situation. Make sure to thoroughly explain the steps you will take and how those actions will resolve the issues at hand.

Follow Through

All your work apologizing, understanding, and creating a plan is worthless if you don’t follow through. Make tracking your solution’s progress a priority and keep the customer up to date on what’s happening. Showing your client that you are committed to ensuring their satisfaction even when things haven’t gone as planned lets them know that their continued business is important to you.

Giving someone bad news is never easy, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. With these steps, you’re ready to deliver the news and make things right so your customer remains happy.

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(Marketing Coordinator)

Caitlin is a Marketing Coordinator at SAGE. When she's not writing, she enjoys baking and spending time with her beagle puppy, Piper.

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