Does bad news have to mean bad feelings?

Yes, you can share bad news with customers and still come out on top...

If you’re in business long enough, there’ll come a time when you need to communicate bad news to your customers.  Price increases, service cuts, rejected applications:  these are all examples of unfavorable developments that have to be shared with consumers.  Particularly during economic downturns, these types of messages are even more common — and scary.

Many companies resign themselves to what’s viewed as an inevitable outcome of such communications — customer frustration and dissatisfaction.  While it’s fair to say that these messages aren’t going to please everyone, the fact is that bad news — if delivered the right way — can actually strengthen customer relationships and cultivate more trust between company and consumer.

A recent study by branding firm Siegel + Gale demonstrated this quite well, finding that bad news does not necessarily have to damage customer relationships if it is crafted in a clear, forthright and respectful way.  In a similar vein, the Wall Street Journal recently reported on how colleges’ rejection letters to applicants can leave vastly different impressions on the candidates.

Whether it’s a for-profit business, a non-profit charity, or an academic institution, when it comes to communicating bad news, organizations have an excellent opportunity to really show their stripes.  Impersonal, complicated and robotic messages will elicit a very different reaction than simple, authentic and respectful approaches.  Embrace the latter strategy and your bad news is much more likely to build — rather than break — your brand.