Sometimes, businesses have to deliver bad news to customers. That’s a fact of life, but it’s rarely easy to do. In most cases, the best way to do it is just that — do it, get it done, and move on. If the business relationship is solid, it will withstand one instance of bad news.
Not long ago, a service provider with whom I’ve worked for well over a decade decided that it was just too tough to share some bad news. As a result, they damaged their working relationship with me, and I’m willing to wager they’ve done the same with other clients.
The company changed hands in the last year, and when the invoice came for something they handled annually for me, I was stunned to see that the amount had nearly doubled. I contacted them to see if something had changed with this particular service, and was told it hadn’t. “But the previous owners were charging less for the service than it costs to provide it, so we needed to raise it.”
I wondered aloud why they didn’t warn me and their other clients, and the response was, “We weren’t sure how to do that.” So they did nothing. Remained quiet. Hoped nobody would notice. And that’s a terrible strategy. Inexcusable, in fact. You see, people will notice. And the fact that you haven’t owned up about it tells them that you really don’t consider them to be all that important, or that you’re trying to deceive them.
It’s possible that the price increase might have cost them a client or two. It’s far more likely that their silence will cost them business not only now, but down the road, too — because they’ve eroded the all-important trust they had with their clients.
The lesson? 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.