How to tell people bad news on the phone
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You have lost some important documents. You have destroyed some files a customer sent you. You have damaged another person’s property. And now you have to admit what has happened on the phone.
Nobody likes telling bad news, but it has to be done. And although we have no alternative, we very often put it off until the very last moment. But, like so many other things in our working life, if it has to be done eventually, why not straight away?
Actually, in the long run it is not only easier but also much more polite to get telling bad news out of the way as quickly as possible. The longer you wait, the more difficult and awkward it becomes, and the more likely the person is to be offended and ask, “Why didn’t you tell me this before?”
Here are some tips
- say exactly what has gone wrong
- tell the person what actions you are taking to make the situationbetter
- tell them if you are taking any consequences
Next time you have to give someone bad news, prepare carefully. Think carefully about what you are going to say and be direct.
Here are some useful phrases for giving people bad news face to face or on the phone:
I’m sorry but I / we’ve had a problem with your car.
I’m terribly sorry, but there have been some problems with your travel arrangements.
I’m afraid we’ve lost some documents you sent us.
I’m calling to apologise for a mishap we have had with your order.
I’m phoning to tell you that I am very sorry but we have lost the files you need.
We are doing everything possible to find out what went wrong.
We hope we will soon know what happened and be able to solve the problem.
We are doing our best to sort everything out.
We will of course reimburse you.
We have informed the police about the theft. They will be in touch with you.
We have told the insurance company and they will be phoning you.