With bad news, be bold

At times, businesses have to deliver bad news to customers and other stakeholders. In most cases, the best way to do it is just get it done, and move on. A solid business relationship will nearly always withstand one instance of bad news.

Some time back, a service provider with whom I’ve worked for years decided that it was just too tough to share some bad news. When the invoice for something they handled annually for me arrived, I was stunned to see that their fee had nearly doubled. I contacted them to see if something had changed with this service, and was told it hadn’t. “But we were charging less for the service than it costs to provide it, so we needed to raise it.”

When I wondered why they didn’t warn their clients, the response was, “We weren’t sure how.” So they did nothing. Remained quiet. Hoped nobody would notice. And that’s a terrible strategy. The simple fact is people will notice. And if you haven’t owned up about it, that tells them that you really don’t consider them to be all that important, or that you’re trying to deceive them.

I’ll bet the price increase cost them a client or two. It’s even more likely that their silence will cost them business down the road, too — because they’ve eroded the all-important trust they had with their clients.

If you have bad news, share it. Right away. And then continue to deliver the level of service that kept your clients satisfied in the first place. They may not be happy with the bad news, but if you’ve created that level of trust and loyalty, you’ll keep their business.