Breaking bad news to customers is not an easy task. However, occasionally, it's a duty that many business people must carry out with empathy and professionalism.
Here are five strategies for delivering the message with compassion:
1. Tell the truth. People tend to fear what they do not understand. Put the situation into perspective for your customer. Give as much information as you can about the who, what, when, where and why.
2. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. It’s useless and naïve to tell customers not to worry or expect them not to get frustrated. They ARE worried, and maybe even angry at how the events will affect them (or their companies) personally. Don’t leave them guessing. Give them all the facts.
3. Acknowledge their feelings. Don’t invalidate their feelings by suggesting the situation is “not that bad.” This is also not a time for humor. Let them vent. Negative emotions must be dealt with before they can be replaced with a positive plan of action.
4. Take charge. Outline a specific plan of action that you and your company will take. Assume ownership for the customer’s situation.
5. Follow through. Make it your priority to track the progress on the customer’s problem within your company. Make frequent status reports to the customer until the situation is resolved to his or her satisfaction.
From "The Voice Coach" ezine by Susan Berkley. Copyright 2002, reprinted with permission. For a free subscription visit http://www.greatvoice.com. Susan Berkley is a professional speaker and international communications expert. She is a top voiceover artist and author of "Speak to Influence: How to Unlock the Hidden Power of Your Voice, " available at bookstores or from The Great Voice Company at 800-333-8108.