How to Break the Bad News to a Client

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Oh great! That project is behind and now it’s time to break the bad news to the client. What do you say? How do you bring this up without having the client get angry and possibly fire you? This is one of the hardest conversations you will have in the business world and honestly, there is no way to get out of it, but there are a few things you should do that could ease the blow of bad news.

Be honest

Get right to the point and explain the situation. People fear what they don’t understand. Don’t waste yours or the client’s time by beating around the bush. They aren’t looking for explanations, they want you to take responsibility. Also, never delegate this responsibility onto someone else. If you are the main point of contact for the client chances are they are comfortable with you. Making someone else break the bad news would show that you don’t care about the client.

Acknowledge the client’s feelings

The best thing you can do is start by putting yourself in the client’s shoes. Recognize the impact this will have on them. They also have deadlines and benchmarks to meet and having a project behind or delayed throughs off their schedule as well. Show that you understand the client’s position at the beginning of the conversation. This empathy communicates that the client’s satisfaction is still your number one priority.

Give the client a sandwich

While your client may love a delicious sandwich during a meeting, I’m referring to the sandwich approach. You start and end the conversation with good news and put the bad news in the middle, like a ‘sandwich’. Studies show that people tend to hear the beginning and end of what others say. This helps the client leave that meeting with hope and positivity.

Always bring solutions

You are going into this meeting knowing that the client isn’t going to be happy. Come prepared to the meeting with a few different solutions that would still meet the client’s needs. A solid way to make sure you don’t lose the client is to focus most of the conversation on the solution instead of the problem.

Follow-up and follow-through

Make it a priority to track the progress on the client’s project. Make frequent status reports to the client until the situation is resolved to their satisfaction. The project was already delayed and you provided a new plan of action to keep pushing the project forward so make sure you are staying on top of it and keeping the client up to date. This will help them in regaining your trust by showing that you are invested in getting this project completed to their satisfaction.

Having to tell a client that their project isn’t going to be completed before their specified due date is some bad news no one wants to break. Hopefully, this never happens to you and you continually deliver projects that are on time. Let’s face it, sometimes things get in the way and that deadline just isn’t going to happen. For those instances make sure to follow these steps. Be honest, acknowledge the client’s feelings, bring solutions, make sure to focus on the positive side of things and always follow-up. Breaking bad news is never the easiest, but sometimes it just has to be done and we want to make it easier.

 

Sources:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1P_wBmFucRzGj28f2tw9nETIsqp6nkkO984cxl5Aj6xk/edit
https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/224884
https://www.businessknowhow.com/tips/badnews.htm
https://www.agilelaw.com/blog/3-worst-ways-to-break-bad-news-to-a-client/
https://www.expd8.co.uk/blog/7-simple-steps-on-how-to-deliver-bad-news-to-clients/

 

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