In life, and certainly in customer service, bad news is unavoidable. There will always be a customer who needs something you can’t provide or a policy you can’t bend. So how should you go about delivering the bad news?
Firstly, do not position yourself as the gatekeeper to what the customer wants. You do not want the customer to feel it’s necessary to treat you as an impediment to getting the resolution he desires. Instead, present yourself as an ally: you know and understand what the customer wants or needs and you, too, want the same things.
But, since there is a reason that will prevent you from actually delivering the desired resolution, be immediately upfront about the problem or roadblock. Using vague language or delaying the inevitable delivery of bad news doesn’t make the problem any less of a problem, but it can compound it by making you appear untrustworthy.
“Bad news isn’t wine. It doesn’t improve with age. —Colin Powell
Be honest when explaining the issue at hand, but don’t get into the weeds. Your customer isn’t interested in internal goings-on or corporate reasoning behind policies, so keep the conversation focused where it belongs, on your customer, and let him know why you are unable to remedy the situation to his liking.
Assess whether or not there is anything you can do to soften the blow of the bad news. Then do it. Your customer may be disappointed by the situation, but he will appreciate your commitment to service.
Lastly, tell the customer that you value his business and apologize to him for not being able to meet his expectations. A straightforward expression of your regret for the situation is perhaps the most important piece of conveying bad news with grace.
While it’s normal to want to avoid letting people down by telling them something they don’t want to hear or trying to brush over it or blame the issue on someone else, following the 5 steps above will help you let your customers down easy.