How to break bad news to customers and still keep their trust

Thursday, October 5, 2017

As much as possible you'd want to make sure the customer interaction remains positive when talking to clients. That's what customer service is about, creating memorable customer experiences. But when it comes to service failures occurring or sales falling through, you can't just spin it to something upbeat. After all, "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong," stated the adage Murphy's Law.

That's what makes bad news a bit hard to break to customers. It's the inverse of a positive customer experience. It can disappoint, it can irritate, or even madden. Your client can feel slighted, as well. They have the tendency to shoot the messenger, despite call center agents are only doing their job. Delivering bad news can sometimes give a pang of guilt to the bearer of the message as well.

Despite that, it's your duty to deliver the cold, hard truth to your customers. And communicating the truth helps maintain the trust you and your customer have built. Face the music, break the bad news to your customers, and keep your customer relationship intact with these five tips.

1.   Don't wait for the right time

The sooner you can inform your customers of the bad news, the better. The more you let it simmer, the more frustrated your customer will be. There's no right time in delivering bad news but as soon as possible. Providing repeated warnings regarding the matter helps soften the blow as well. At least that way you're not dropping a huge bomb on your customers.

2.   Gauge the customer's emotional state

You first need to recognize how the bad news is going to affect your customer. Put yourself in your customers' shoes. How would they feel if they learn that their purchase didn't push through? Or that a service failure occurred, and that it would take a considerable amount of time to fix? This allows you to communicate your empathy to them when breaking the bad news.

3.   Break the bad news honestly and directly

"Give to a gracious message a host of tongues, but let ill tidings tell themselves when they be felt," said Cleopatra in the Shakespearean play Antony and Cleopatra. This means that you can deliver good news in varying ways. But for bad news, always be direct, frank, and honest. There's no need to sugarcoat the truth to make it an easier pill to swallow. It may be difficult, but that's what's needed. Customers will appreciate the honesty later on.

4.   Provide assurance and viable solutions

When all is said and done, you should take charge of the situation. Give them assurance that the situation will be taken care of immediately. Tell them your plan to solve the issue. If solutions presented weren't effective, offer alternatives to remedy your customers' concerns. It's not enough to just announce the bad news; you must also give them a way to go past it.

5.   Follow up and follow through

Should there be updates regarding their concerns or application, contacting the customer can help you rebuild the trust further. It shows that how much you care for them that you took your time to deliver the good news regarding their concerns. Keep them in the loop when it comes to fixing their issues. This gives them an open and transparent communication with you.