My husband and I were sitting at the big boardroom table at the closing office. We’d just sold our first home, and we were now closing on our new home. We thought we were in […]
You already know it’s best to not say words like “Unfortunately,” or a hard “no,” and you probably even know that you need to let angry customers vent for at least a few seconds, but there are some other things you should know before trying to get customers to accept your word as final, especially when you have to give customers bad news. I’m sharing three tactics from my handling demanding customers workshops to help you assertively (and politely) control challenging interactions with customers.
1. Don’t undermine your authority by mentioning “your supervisor.”
I had an employee who, when trying to assert her authority with challenging customers, would say things like, “Only a supervisor can make a decision for that amount,” “That’s over my head,” or “If I can’t help you, I’m happy to let you talk to my supervisor.”
What my employee was doing, certainly without realizing it, was priming customers to escalate up to a supervisor. The mere mention of supervisor and the suggestion that some decisions were “over her head,” psychologically nudged customers to do just that, go over her head to talk to a supervisor who was clearly the only person able to move the needle on the customer’s issue.
Telling customers what they don’t want to hear is one of the hardest things customer service employees will ever have to do. To make it easier for you to give bad news, I’ve made my popular How to Deliver Bad News online class free. At the end of this post, you can click to go right into my course.
Giving bad news is hard because of the fear of backlash and because so many customers will just escalate to a supervisor in hopes of getting a different response.
Giving lousy news usually goes wrong because of the approach employees use. The three biggest mistakes people make when telling customers what they don’t want to hear are:
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.
If you find it hard to get customers to accept your word as final and if too many of your customers just go over your head to talk to a supervisor who will tell the customer the exact same thing, you need to read this.
I have for you five little tricks that I share in my onsite de-escalation workshops. These ideas will help you be far more successful in getting customers to accept your word as final.
1. Show regret.
Your words of regret help you come across as genuinely concerned and helpful. When customers feel you’re concerned and willing to help, they’re more likely to accept your word as final. Saying something like, “I can appreciate how frustrating this must be for you” is perfect.
2. Sound confident.
It’s important that you sound confident when you tell the customer what you can’t do. Otherwise, some customers won’t take your word as final. They’ll push and ask to talk to someone higher up. Here are some of my tips for sounding confident.
- Slow down a bit.
- Enunciate and speak clearly.
- Relax. (Consciously try to release tension and anxiety.)
3. Assertively make your point.
I’m sipping black tea and listening to classical music while I custom design a customer service workshop for a utility on the east coast. One of my deliverables for this training is to equip employees with the skill of giving lousy news to customers in such a way that the customer accepts the employees’ answer as the final word.
You’re in for a professional development treat today, because I’m sharing with you what I’ll facilitate in Philadelphia next month. You’re about to learn how to deliver bad news with confidence and in such a way that you minimize backlash from customers.
You can give a customer bad news easily and without fear of how your customer might respond when you use 4 Keys. When you have to deliver bad news to your customer, you need to:
Say what you have to say Assertively
Acknowledge how hard this is for the customer
Offer Options, when it makes sense
Let’s look at each key.
Key 1: Say What You Have to Say Assertively
Five years ago my dad needed to have a quadruple bypass, and he needed to have 3 of his heart valves replaced. The surgery came with significant risks. There was a 10 – 15% chance of death during or shortly after surgery.
There was a risk of stroke or heart attack during the operation. My father didn’t want to have the surgery – because of the risks, and based on things he was hearing from other people.
My sister arranged a meeting with my Dad’s surgeon and our whole family, where we could ask questions about the surgery so that my Dad could make the best decision.
The surgeon walked into the exam room to meet with us. He greeted us, shook our hands, and took a seat across from my Dad. I was the first to ask a question. “If my dad doesn’t have this surgery, what are we looking at?”
Here’s what I want you to hear; the way the surgeon answered my question. He turned to face me, and he said,