How to Deliver Bad News to Clients

No one wants to be a harbinger of bad news – not even you the service provider. But bad news comes and go and you want to share it as positively as possible. Depending on the extent of the news, you want to be creative with how you approach it.

From losing a client’s products to not being able to renew the existing contract, you want to learn how to deliver bad news to clients.

It can be as simple as calling the customer and relaying the message. But if you want to be professional and tactical at the same time, it is high time you followed the tips we share.

How to Deliver Bad News to Clients

How to Deliver Bad News to Clients in 6 Steps

We have made a list of the top six (6) strategies you want to follow when looking for a better way to deliver bad news.

Here are the exact things you want to do:

1. Get Right to It and Don’t Beat Around the Bush

Understandably, you are looking to use an effective communication strategy when delivering a negative message. More often than not, you want to stick to using impersonal statements to break the ice.

However, coming “clean” sometimes might just be a better way to deliver bad news to clients. Give it to them directly. Tell them why the expected results didn’t pan out and what could have been done differently.

If you made a mistake, acknowledge it and ask the client to forgive your error. By being frank about the whole thing, the client will more likely appreciate your honesty and try to see reasons with you.

Note that this strategy can sometimes be tricky. You want to be sure the client is in a good mood and understands the efforts you have made so far.

2. Prepare Ahead of Time

Those who fail to plan tend to fail at the end of the day. Take as much time as you can to prepare ahead of telling your client about what went wrong.

Note, preparation has to be in line with the factors leading up to the mistake. You want to put the pieces together and get yourself emotionally prepared for whatever response the client may have.

Here are some of the things you want to do when preparing to deliver bad news to your client:

  • Put yourself in the client’s position and try to understand how he or she would feel. That makes it a lot easier for you to be strategic with how you approach the issue.
  • Show empathy by letting the client know that you understand how it all feels and you would be willing to help remedy the situation.
  • Use statements like “I’m sorry”, “Please accept my sincerest apologies” to start the conversation.
  • Don’t forget to tell the truth.

3. Don’t “Point a Finger” at the Client

We don’t mean pointing one of your fingers at the client; we rather mean literally. Even if the (bad) outcome was a fault of the clients’, you don’t want to make it obvious. You are not massaging their ego either, but you are trying to prevent an emotional response to the whole issue.

The client is hurting already and the last thing you want is to get the anger vetted on you. Here is a better way to approach the issue and deliver bad news to clients who made a slip:

  • Be prepared to give a detailed breakdown of what went wrong (not exonerating the clients’ role of course). That way, you wouldn’t be “lying down” and taking all the blame, when the clients have some to take too.
  • Focus on the issue alone and try not to paint a picture of the clients making a mistake.
  • If possible, proffer a way out of the situation.
  • Have a grip on your emotions. Don’t react out of anger.

4. Learn to Pay Attention

Okay, you’ve laid the cards on the table. The clients know what went wrong and the role everyone played to make it all wrong.

Now is the time to listen. What do the clients have to say? Are they all worked up? Not ready to commit further? Perhaps, the clients want to go through it all again and see if something can be done.

Whatever their decision is or whatever they are saying, it is your responsibility to pay attention. Listen to what they have to say and if there is any point to add, don’t hesitate to do that.

Also read: Professional Negotiation Skills You Need to Succeed in Business

5. Be Strategic with How You Deliver the News – Telephone First, Email Second, In-Person Third

Perhaps, you have wanted to drive down to the clients’ office or house and break the bad news. While that may seem a sensible thing to do (it is anyway), now is not the right time for it.

The rule of thumb is to telephone the clients first. Provide as much detail as possible. Second, you want to send an email, detailing the step-by-step laydown of what happened. Most times, you get an invite to come over and that’s when you conclude the whole thing.

Of course, these processes rely on how close your communication has been with the clients. If you have been doing more of email exchanges, it may be wise to send an email before meeting in person.

“The easiest ways to break bad news to your clients are going straight to the point, preparing before you contact them, avoiding blame-trading, listening to the clients’ response, choosing the best medium to relay the news and offering to help.”

6. Proffer Solutions and not Just be a News Breaker

Finding a fault is one thing and fixing it is another. Now that you have delivered the bad news to the clients, do you just sit there and wait for them to make all the decisions?

Since you are a part of the problem – or you were unable to prevent the problem, you may as well be a part of the solution.

Offer advice on how to navigate out of the situation. By explaining yourself and providing a viable solution, you make the clients believe that you are still interested in fixing the situation. That is how you win trust back and when trust is there, you have yourself a deal.

Also read: The Biggest Enemies of Success and How to Conquer Them

Conclusion: Break Bad News to Clients in 6 Ways

The easiest ways to break bad news to your clients are going straight to the point, preparing before you contact them, avoiding blame-trading, listening to the clients’ response, choosing the best medium to relay the news and offering to help.

In addition, you want to keep in touch with the clients until the situation is over and avoid doing anything that will cause another. That way, you fix the situation, win your clients’ trust back and continue doing business like it never happened.

Chukwukadibia Abah

Chukwukadibia Abah is a passionate writer with 6 years of experience in writing SEO-optimized content. I love writing generally. I write on various niches, including but not limited to eCommerce, Finance, Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, and Amazon Product Reviews. I am currently an active contributor at SME SCOOP, Entrepreneur Business Blog and My Top Insurance.

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