5 Simple Techniques to Deliver Bad News to a Customer

Soften the blow by delivering bad news with empathy

5 Simple Techniques to Deliver Bad News to a Customer
Loyalty ManagementInsights

Published: September 19, 2022

CX Today Team

Satisfied customers are essential for a thriving business, but things can sometimes go wrong. Businesses that provide the highest-quality products and services occasionally encounter dissatisfied or irate clients. In such scenarios, a company should follow a strategy when delivering bad news.

The following are a few examples of “bad news” that can arise:

  • Price increase for goods and services
  • Failure to meet delivery deadlines for a product or service
  • Unavailable products
  • Bugs in software
  • Cancellations of events

It is essential to know how to deliver such bad news to customers professionally and respectfully so that the company can adequately resolve a customer’s problem.

Here are five best practices to remember.

  1. Prioritize Transparency

Customer service should never claim that the company’s product is impervious to issues. Clients usually forgive product or delivery problems, if they are appropriately managed.

Nonetheless, it is always best to notify customers of future or anticipated problems. When a flaw is discovered in a product (such as a bug that has the potential to impair a user’s productivity), it’s important to be transparent and communicate so with customers as early as possible.

  1. Accept Accountability

It is vital never to shift blame as it will only cause confusion and uncertainty. It is better to take responsibility for the customer’s problem, which means admitting a problem exists and outlining a solution. Accepting accountability is essential even if the bad news is unavoidable and there is no other recourse.

Ideally, one should not blame partners, vendors, or developers either — instead, it’s key to clarify the chain of events that led to the issue objectively and analytically. Customers want to know that a brand is accountable for its results and that support agents are working for their best interests within the company.

  1. Acknowledge Customers’ Feelings and Focus on Empathy

When unpleasant news is delivered to customers, they may be rightfully upset. Every agent’s duty is to provide them with compassion and empathy. It is crucial to not diminish their feelings by implying that the issue is “not that big.”

Before a course of action can be implemented, helping customers deal with any negative feelings is also necessary. It’s important to let the customer know that the team cares about how the unfortunate news is hurting them by promoting an atmosphere of understanding and empathy.

  1. Always Offer a Solution

It is essential to have a plan in place that outlines how the customer service team intends to resolve the issue, even when delivering the bad news. In the meantime, agents can propose an alternative solution when possible. When dealing with an account-specific issue, it is best to offer the customer a phone call and learn more about the subject by calling rather than emailing.

Customers will see that they are cared for and not left alone. To wrap up the interaction, agents should discuss the efforts taken to ensure a similar problem does not arise again. These plans should be as specific as possible to avoid a repeat of this scenario for future customers who might be in the same position.

  1. Provide Updates Before Being Asked

The customer’s problem should be a top priority for a customer service team. Until the issue is rectified, it’s important to continue to provide regular progress updates. Agents should send a follow-up email outlining the progress made on the issue after a day or two since the ticket was raised. The email should include an estimate of the day and time when the team expects to have the problem solved.

Similarly, companies can proactively reach out to customers and find out if any problems have arisen. This will prevent the need to deliver bad news in the first place. An outbound system would come in handy at this stage, as it allows agents to retrieve a list of contacts and other pertinent information.

The Bottom Line

Things break, services don’t always run as smoothly as planned, deliveries are delayed, orders are delivered incomplete, and so on. Front-line agents who are constantly in touch with customers can have a difficult time communicating bad news. However, companies can lessen the burden of their jobs by using contact center technology, the right coaching, regular soft skills training, and robust scripts.

Finally, agent happiness and satisfaction must be a top priority, so a company’s workforce has the emotional resilience necessary to navigate negative and problematic conversations.

Deliver bad news with empathy by equipping agents with some of the handy phrases from our article: 11 Acknowledgment, Empathy, and Reassurance Statements for Customer Service


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