Learn three things to avoid and why by seeing a simple example of breaking bad news gone wrong. Learn about what's at stake when you don't approach delivering bad news strategically, such as the customer escalating to a supervisor or escalating in aggression, social media ranting, or losing a customer.
- 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 great shape, but something went wrong. The bank didn't transfer the money for the purchase of our new home. I called our mortgage broker who had handled every detail up to that point. I got the office manager. "You're approved, I don't know why "the money wasn't transferred. "It's now after hours on the east coast "on a holiday weekend." It was New Year's Eve.
We can't talk to anybody until after the first of the year. Devastated doesn't even begin to describe how I felt right then. I was in all out panic mode. I was afraid we wouldn't be able to move into our new home. I asked to speak to my broker, and the office manager said, "He's just going to "tell you the same thing I've told you. "Like I said, there is nothing we can do "until after the first of the year." There was no explanation, no concern for our very serious problem, no offer to help, nothing.
She just said what she said, and we were left helpless. By the way after the first of the year we found that the bank account number for the wire transfer was incorrect. It was one number off, that's all it was, and then we were able to move into our new home. But not after a long holiday weekend of complete fear. This is a good example of how not to deliver bad news to a customer. Things will go wrong, and there will be times when there is nothing you can do to help the customer.
You can't control the fact that you have to be the bearer of bad news, but you can control how you deliver the news. My former mortgage broker got it wrong, as a lot of people do. Here's how most people get it wrong when they deliver bad news to a customer. Causing a sense of helplessness. More than anything else, customers want help. That's why they call customer service. When your response is, "There's nothing I can do," that causes a feeling of helplessness.
This feeling of helplessness can lead to customers getting frustrated, or angry, and this makes them harder for you to deal with. It's also one of the main reasons customers will give up working with you and ask to talk to a supervisor. So what can you do? Offer alternatives. Make the customer feel that you're doing all you possibly can do to help them. Indifference. It's hard enough to deliver bad news to a customer, but if a customer thinks you don't care about their problem, that you are dismissing them, it becomes so much harder for you to work with them.
In my example, I felt the office manager was indifferent. The problem was catastrophic for us, but I didn't feel she cared. If your customer thinks you don't care, they tend to talk more or rant more, become more difficult, and escalation is likely. Show genuine concern with a response like, "I realize this whole thing has been frustrating for you." And finally, belaboring the point. I hear this a lot when I'm listening to customer service calls for clients.
I think the intent is to get the customer to calm down or to accept the bad news, but it is usually perceived negatively. When you make your point repeatedly, "Mam, you have to open a claim online, "I cannot open a claim over the phone for you. "You have to do this online," you tend to make the customer more upset. Make your point once, like this. "I know this is an extra step you don't want "to have to take, but we have to have "an online form completed and signed "in order to open a claim for you." If you make one or more of these common mistakes when you deliver bad news to a customer, you're at risk for losing customer trust or losing the customer completely.
You're more likely to get a difficult to handle response, or the customer may ask to speak to your supervisor. Avoid these three mistakes when you deliver bad news, and you'll instantly be better positioned to deliver bad news in such a way that it's easy for customers to hear and accept.
- Communicating clearly
- Acknowledging the customer's concerns
- Being open to additional questions
- Offering alternatives
- Reviewing customer service policies
- Communicating on the phone or via email
- Interacting with customers in person