How To : Give Bad News to Customers

What do you do when you know that you have not met your service aims?
How can you limit the damage done to the relationship with your customer?
Here are some of the ways to lessen the pain.
Before you break the bad news ( before the conversation)
  •  Look for a workaround or other temporary solution
  • Think about how you escalate this to management a service/other escalation next step and plan this ( with management?)
  • Acknowledge your negative emotions, but decide not to display them. 
  •  Expect some conflict or unpleasant reaction
  • Consider if this interaction may just be damage limitation 
  • Try to handle the conflict in a private setting 

As you break the bad news ( during the conversation)

  • Let the customer vent – do not interrupt 
  • Empathize
  • Be ready to explain fully if that is requested
  • Apologize ( in many cultures)
  • Offer escalation before it is requested
  • Consider offering compensation before it is requested 
  • Be ready to reaffirm the importance of the relationship
  • Make sure to follow up when things are calmer

How To: Handle Conflict At Work

Here is a simple style guide for situations where there is disagreement.


1. De-emotionalise communication.

Use emotion in negotiation situations only when you choose to deliberately.

Emotion is reflected in body language, voice (speed, volume, tone, intonation) and choice of words.

Try to rise above the issue. This is seen as more professional and managerial.


2. Depersonalise communication : Be hard on the problem not on the person.

Avoid personalised language:


You don’t understand the situation  and that is why you don’t agree.”

with this version….

“This is a tough situation and I think we should think about that complexity before deciding finally.”

3.Use less absolute, definite language. Be aware of the effect of strong language and use if only if you choose deliberately to do so.

e,g dead end, red line, loosing situation,

e.g  Instead of  “You are forcing me to reach a dead end.”

You could say, “Taking that approach leaves me little room for options.”

4. Give commentary on the situation that describes the process you see as taking place:

e.g. I understand why you are asking me to come , but there is someone in the marketing team who could help you better in this case .

Adding understanding in this way makes searching for solutions an easier task.

5. Don’t just focus on the short term problem.

See the particular matter under discussion within the context of other negotiations and management interaction over a longer period.