When You Have to Deliver Bad News, Do It in Person

1 Minute Read

For whatever reason, it’s sometimes up to the CEO to deliver bad news to a valued customer. There are a million reasons to put this unpleasant task off as long as possible—you’re too busy, you don’t like confrontation, maybe the best approach is to sweep it under the rug. In an age of proliferating communications platforms, you have plenty of options in which to reach out to the customer that can minimize your personal discomfort. Email, text message, voicemail—vital information can be delivered any number of ways.

But the best way to present bad or unexpected news is always to do it in person.

Getting Lost in Translation

Communications through email are particularly susceptible to misunderstanding. It’s very difficult to convey the appropriate tone and emotion in this medium; even worse, poorly written emails are indelible and potential career-killers. Even if what you write is—in your view—completely legitimate, the recipient might interpret your message as inflammatory and insulting, which can easily spell the end to a professional relationship. The risk simply isn’t worth it.

Mitigating Damage Through Face-to-Face Meetings

Schedule a time to meet at the customer’s convenience, but sooner rather than later. Once you’re in a room together, whatever the problem, address it quickly, directly and to the point. In most cases, the customer will absorb the bad news with less negative effects because of the respect you’ve shown by meeting him or her in person.

A little conflict is good, as long as it’s done in a caring, thoughtful and direct manner.

Putting It Into Practice

In our Catapult Groups meetings, CEOs and business leaders often role-play difficult conversations. Members offer feedback and help one another hone the skills needed to communicate under difficult circumstances. I encourage you to do the same before meeting with your customer. Choose someone else in your office, or even your spouse, and “rehearse” a face-to-face conversation. The results will help prepare you for the real thing.

Learn more about how being a Catapult Groups member can help you better serve your customers and grow your business. Call us at 855-752-8624.

Brad Mishlove