Three Simple (But Important) Things To Remember About Giving Bad News To Customers


No one likes to deliver bad news to customers, but for a lot of us, giving bad news is a regular part of business. You know the feeling – you probably get nervous, or you have to transfer a call to your supervisor because the customer won’t accept your word as final. It’s time to figure out how to fix that!

For more than 20 years, through my workshops, I’ve worked with customer service professionals just like you who struggle with how to say things to customers that they don’t want to hear.

Here are Three Simple (But Important) Things To Remember About Giving Bad News To Customers.

1. Never cause a sense of helplessness.

More than anything else, customers want help. That’s why they call customer service. When your response is, “There’s nothing I can do” that causes a feeling of helplessness. This feeling of helplessness can lead to customers getting more frustrated or angry, and this makes them harder for you to deal with. It’s also one of the main reasons customers will give up on working with you, and ask to talk to a supervisor.

So what can you do? Offer alternatives. Make the customer feel that you’re doing all you possibly can to help them.

2. Make sure you don’t have an air of indifference.

It’s hard enough to deliver bad news to a customer. But, if a customer thinks you don’t care about their problem; that you are dismissing them, it becomes so much harder for you to work with them.

If your customer thinks you don’t care, they tend to talk or rant more, become more difficult, and escalation is likely. Show genuine concern with a response like, “I realize this whole thing has been frustrating for you.”

3. Don’t belabor the point.

I hear this a lot when I’m listening to customer service calls for clients. I think the intent is to get the customer to calm down or to accept the bad news, but it usually is perceived negatively. When you make your point repeatedly, “Ma’am, you have to open a claim online. I cannot open a claim over the phone for you. You have to do this online” you tend to make the customer more upset.

Make your point once, like this. “I know this is an extra step you don’t want to have to take, but we have to have an online form completed and signed to open a claim for you.”

In my How to Deliver Bad News to Customers LinkedIn Learning course, I share four keys for how to deliver bad news, whether that’s over the phone, chat, or in person. You’ll hear my own stories and examples that will help you use these keys when you deliver bad news.

At the end of the day, delivering bad news doesn’t have to be hard for you or your customer. It just takes a few easy steps, and you’ll be able to say what needs to be said without fearing the backlash.

In my 48-minute How to Deliver Bad News Online Class, we explore:

*The biggest mistakes most people make when giving bad news

*How to say ‘no’ to a customer, and make your ‘no’ final

*How to deliver bad news over the phone, email, or chat

*How to handle specific situations, like policy conflicts or impossible requests

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Sample this course or go right ahead and take the full 48-minute class right here.