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Why Communicating Bad News Is Critical to Ensuring Customer Satisfaction

Ian Thomas

COO at Node4

Nobody likes giving bad news. Well, most people! In business, particularly within the service environment, this is something that is never enjoyable as you very often understand the implications for your customer and their business.

You know that you are likely to be on the receiving end of a number of tough questions - “how has this happened?”, “why did it happen?”, “why couldn’t it be prevented?”, “what have you done to prevent it from happening again?” and so on.

Whilst all of this is true and the questions are completely justifiable, what many customers do recognise is that in today’s complex IT environments, service will fail at some stage (unless they have parted with a large amount of money to give them 100% availability). In fact, many I have spoken to over the years have specifically stated this as something they are prepared for.

The one common denominator all customers have stated is that what frustrates them more than anything else is the failure of organisations to effectively communicate during times of service disruption. Not receiving information about what is happening, the latest status, how it will impact their business and what is being done to remedy the situation is damaging. It not only affects their operations, their reputation, and their ability to serve their customers and fulfil their commitments – but also your relationship with them.

 

How to deliver bad news to your customers

With the range of technology that is available today and our constant focus on engagement with customers and colleagues, there is no reason for lack of communication. We must let our customers know when things aren’t working as well as they should, or indeed aren’t working at all!

Portals, webpages, SMS, e-mail, and apps are just some of the options available to organisations to provide a ‘window’ into service, to enable clients to know exactly what is going on in real-time.

Most customers won’t need or want to know the details. In reality, customers want to be reassured that you’re aware of the situation, you’re already working on it, and if possible, a view of how long it will take you to fully recover the service. If you can provide this, most customers will be satisfied (unless the issue continually repeats itself, but then the conversation is about other services you should be providing as part of the service wrap which might not be working properly!).

So when you’re next establishing a communication stream, or transitioning a client or business into your organisation, ensure you are factoring the guaranteed need for the telling of bad news. Nobody wants to have to do it, but the reality is failing to do it may have far greater consequences, and the outcome of being clear and transparent is usually far better than you originally anticipated.

Learn more about our approach to service management and how you can benefit from a partnership with Node4