Question: What is your favorite tip for softening bad news to a customer or client?
Offer a Positive Initiative
"Stuff happens, as they say. It's how you deal with it that speaks volumes. So if you have bad news to break, first have a positive attitude and second have a plan. Something a simple as "unfortunately X happened, but we remain optimistic that Y will occur because we're doing Z." This will go a long way in relieving them of their worries while keeping you positive and focused on a solution."
Be Authentic and Understand Their Position
"Be authentic and sympathetic. If the customer sees you as thinking "oh, it's bad to be in your shoes," they are more likely to feel as though they're alone. However, saying that "we will get through this together" inspires camaraderie and loyalty. If you all do get through it, the memory of overcoming adversity will be a special one."
Tell Them You're Upset
"Start off by telling your client that you are upset or bummed out. Immediately this puts you on the same side as your client, who will inevitably also be upset by the bad news. Next, let them know that you have some ideas to help overcome this hiccup but want to know if they have any great ideas as well. Collaborating for a team solution will help further bond you and your client."
Be Frank About It
"People are sophisticated enough to see through a lot of your attempts to soften bad news. Just be forthcoming with it and tell them -- not with a mean or indifferent attitude, but with honesty. They'll appreciate that you're leveling with them, and they might be more willing to work with you on finding a solution to the problem than if you'd tried to sugarcoat it. "
Frame It With a New Solution
"Never start with, "We can't do this." Instead, start with, "This is what we're doing, and this is why it's a better alternative to the one we had originally outlined." Clients want solutions, not problems."
Speak in the Way They'll Receive It Best
"We each lean in the direction of a certain communication style. Research personality and communication styles such as DISC and find ways to implement that knowledge into interactions. Learn what you can and determine what your customer or client's communication style is. Then speak using the language that they're most comfortable with for bad news."
Don’t Soften It
"Be straightforward and honest in delivering bad news and then move on."