The Art of Giving Bad News to Customers: How to Keep Them Happy Even When the News is Bad (with 3 videos!)

how to deliver bad news

Delivering bad news to your customers may be one of the most challenging tasks you will face. Giving bad news can be stressful, whether it's a delayed shipment, a service outage, or explaining that we no longer offer telehealth doctor's appointments now that COVID has passed.

However, you can significantly impact how your customers perceive your company and their satisfaction with your service if you deliver bad news well. My goal in this article is to provide tips and best practices on effectively delivering bad news to customers while keeping them happy despite the bad news.

Introduction to Delivering Bad News to Customers

Delivering bad news is not a pleasant task for anyone, but as a customer service representative, it is essential to handle it professionally and effectively. Failure to do so can lead to dissatisfied customers, negative reviews, and even lost business.

The first step in delivering bad news is to understand the importance of doing it effectively. Customers appreciate honesty, transparency, and empathy, and they expect to be treated with respect and consideration. Therefore, it is crucial to approach the situation with a positive and helpful attitude, even if the news is not what the customer wants to hear.

Understanding the Importance of Delivering Bad News Effectively

Delivering bad news effectively means being honest, transparent, and empathetic. Customers appreciate when they are treated with respect, and they expect to be informed about any issues that may affect their purchase or experience.

When delivering bad news, it is crucial to focus on the facts and the impact on the customer. Avoid making excuses or blaming others, and instead, take responsibility and offer a solution or alternative. This approach shows that you care about the customer's satisfaction and are committed to resolving the issue.

Factors to Consider Before Delivering Bad News

Before delivering bad news, several factors must be considered, including the timing, the medium, and the tone. Timing is critical, and delivering the news as soon as possible is essential while giving the customer time to prepare for any changes.


The medium used to deliver the news is also essential. Email effectively delivers bad news because it allows the customer time to process the information and respond at their convenience. However, if the news is significant or complex, delivering it in person or over the phone may be better.


Finally, the tone used when delivering the news can make a big difference in how the customer receives it. A positive and helpful tone can help to defuse the situation and make the customer feel valued and respected.


How to Break Bad News to a Customer

 Watch my 13-minute video for a master class on giving bad news!


Grab the Practicing Delivering Bad News Practice Worksheet!

Breaking bad news to a customer is never easy, but there are ways to make it more manageable. The first step is to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally. Take some time to gather your thoughts and practice what you want to say.

When breaking bad news, it's essential to be direct and honest. Avoid using euphemisms or sugar-coating the situation, which can lead to confusion or misunderstandings. Instead, state the facts clearly and concisely, and provide any relevant details or information.

After delivering the news, giving the customer time to react and respond is essential. Be patient, listen to their concerns, and offer any assistance or support you can.


Best Practices for Delivering Bad News via Email

Email is an effective way to deliver bad news, but it's essential to use best practices to ensure that the message is received clearly and professionally. When delivering bad news via email, it's essential to be concise and to the point. Refrain from long-winded explanations or irrelevant details, as this can lead to confusion or frustration.

Additionally, it's essential to personalize the email and address the customer by name. This approach shows that you value their business and are committed to their satisfaction. Finally, always offer a solution or alternative, and include any relevant contact information or instructions.

Tips for Delivering Bad News in Person or Over the Phone

Delivering bad news in person or over the phone requires a different approach than email, but there are still best practices to follow. When delivering bad news in person or over the phone, it's important to be empathetic and supportive. Show that you understand the customer's concerns and are committed to resolving the issue.

Additionally, be direct and honest, and avoid using euphemisms or sugar-coating situations. State the facts clearly and provide any relevant details or information. Finally, be patient, allow the customer time to react and respond, and offer any assistance or support you can.


Bonus: What do you do when you can't give your customer what they want (video)


Examples of Effective Bad News Delivery

Effective bad news delivery requires honesty, transparency, and empathy. Here are some examples of effective bad news delivery:

  • "I'm sorry to inform you that your shipment has been delayed due to unforeseen circumstances. We are working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible and will keep you updated on the status of your order."
  • "We have discovered a defect in the product you purchased. We apologize for the inconvenience and will provide a replacement or a full refund. Please let us know how we can assist you further."
  • "I regret to inform you that our service is experiencing an outage. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and are working to restore service as soon as possible. Please get in touch with us if you need any assistance or support."

Bonus: Get Customers to Accept Your Word As Final (Video)



How to Handle Customer Reactions to Bad News

Customers may react negatively to bad news, but remaining calm and professional is essential. Acknowledge their concerns and frustrations, and offer any assistance or support you can. Additionally, avoid taking the reaction personally and focus on resolving the issue.


If the customer becomes hostile or abusive, it's acceptable to end the conversation politely and refer them to a supervisor or manager. However, always remain respectful and professional, even in difficult situations.

Strategies for Keeping Customers Happy after Delivering Bad News

Keeping customers happy after delivering bad news requires ongoing communication and support. Follow up with the customer to ensure that the issue has been resolved to their satisfaction, and offer any additional assistance or support you can.

Additionally, consider offering discounts or other incentives to show that you value their business and are committed to their satisfaction. Finally, use the experience to improve your processes and procedures to prevent similar issues from occurring in the future.

Conclusion and Key Takeaways

Delivering bad news is never easy, but it's essential to providing excellent customer service. By understanding the importance of delivering bad news effectively, considering the factors before delivering bad news, breaking bad news to a customer, and using best practices for delivering bad news via email or in-person/over the phone, you can keep your customers happy even when the news is bad.


Remember to handle the situation with empathy, transparency, and honesty, and always offer a solution or alternative. Doing so can turn a potentially negative situation into a positive experience for your customers and your business.


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