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.
I’ve told this story on my blog before, so bear with me if you’ve already heard it. I’m standing at the front desk of a nice hotel in Baltimore. The front desk clerk is having a problem with my reservation. I wondered if it was because I had literally just booked the reservation 45 minutes prior, just as I got into my rental car at the airport. I told the hotel employee that perhaps my very recent booking was the problem.
He called hotels.com, the company I used for booking, not once, but two times, about my reservation. When he didn’t get things sorted out after two lengthy calls to hotels.com, he told me, “I’m just going to cancel your hotels.com reservation and rebook you in our system.”
I was eager to get into my room and rest up for a week of full-day training sessions. His suggestion sounded good to me. That is, until, a couple of months later when checking my hotels.com account, I get a message stating that my 6-night hotel stay in Baltimore had been removed from my Rewards Account and that I would not get credit for that stay.
The primary reason I use hotels.com is for the rewards. I travel a lot. It takes ten hotel stays to earn a free hotel night. In June I earned two free hotel nights and used both of those nights for get-aways with my husband. I travel a lot.
Now, the hotels.com call center is telling me that because they couldn’t help my hotel in Baltimore sort out a problem, they are removing my earned rewards? Pretty quickly in the interaction, I asked to speak to a manager. Here’s why I felt I needed to do this.
1. The number one thing customers want is help. When you don’t/can’t help, customers instinctively want to climb the ladder.
Trying to get my deserved hotel rewards, I called hotels.com. I spoke with an employee who put me on hold three times and ultimately told me there was nothing he could do. Literally, he said, “Ma’am, there’s nothing I can do.” This declaration certainly didn’t help me out. So, I said, “May I please speak with your manager?”
2. Customers also want acknowledgment. Another way to think of this is empathy. Without acknowledgment/empathy, it sounds like you don’t care. And if you don’t care, they might as well speak to someone else.