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“I’ll Deal with It Tomorrow”

February 25, 2014

How to Deliver a Difficult Message Today!

How many times have you found yourself in a situation where you need to tell a customer something they don’t want to hear? For example you have to share the news that a product is on backorder, a refund is not approved, a shipment is going to be late, a service is not available anymore, your fees have gone up since they last bought from you or a favorite product has been recalled.

You may be tempted to fall back on the question, “Do you want the good news or the bad news first?” or you may even contemplate avoiding the situation altogether.  The first approach creates a negative expectation and sets a negative tone. The second approach only postpones the inevitable and results in a missed opportunity to manage a relationship and satisfy a customer.

While it is true that delivering difficult messages is not the most enjoyable aspect of working with customers, following some simple steps can help you get your message across and accomplish your objective to keep your customer satisfied and happy with your company.

STEP ONE – Be positive and focus on customer needs.  

Difficult messages do not have to mean “negative” messages.  Be positive and focus on the needs of the person you are speaking with.  Addressing their need up front and tailoring your response to that need shows that you are engaged and focused on their perspective. Tailoring a message that directly addresses what you will do to address their need sets the stage for a positive conversation.

STEP TWO – Give the customer “control” by giving them a choice of options.

When crafting your message, think of possible solutions or alternatives ahead of time. Even if you can’t deliver exactly what they want or need tell them what you can do and let them decide which option best meets their needs. This goes a long way in laying down the ground work for future interactions.

STEP THREE – Provide explanations and not excuses.

Making excuses only serves to remove the blame from you and sometimes even puts the blame on the customer. It is not effective, not professional and not appreciated.  Be concise and direct and provide an understandable explanation as to what the situation is and what you can do about it.  Your customer may not like what they are hearing but at least they can understand the details behind the situation and see that you are working in their best interest.

STEP FOUR – Avoid inflammatory words and phrases.

Think back to the times you have heard the words “No, I can’t”, “Unfortunately…” and “It is not my area.” You most likely felt shut down and not valued. Many times arguments or complaints surface as a result of negative words and defensive reactions.  Negative words sabotage your discussions, create negative reactions and lead to unsatisfied customers.

Pay attention to the words you use and the different reactions you get to certain phrases.   Stick with the ones that get the best results.


By using the four simple steps above you will find it easier to keep your customers happy by not putting off to tomorrow what you can effectively manage today.


Written by Christine Galioto, Senior Training Consultant at Taylor Performance Solutions, Inc. Christine has been helping companies enhance the service they provide to their customers for over 20 years. Taylor Performance Solutions is a New York based consulting and training firm that specializes in customizing training to help employees sell more, service better, lead more effectively and train for results. For more information, visit or call (800) 610-8170.


© 2014 Taylor Performance Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved. Content included in this article is from “Professional Communication and Customer Relations” training offered by Taylor Performance Solutions.