How to Avoid Losing Customers

Published on July 9, 2019

Everyone dreads calling a customer to say they can’t deliver what they want when they want. Who wants to deliver news like that? No one does, and that’s where the trouble really starts. 

The worst mistake people make in business is not communicating the bad news. When you avoid the pain of giving someone a heads up about bad news, you create even more pain—for them and for you. 

Here is what your customer may think when they find out you failed to warn them about potential bad news:


  1. Why didn’t you alert me so I could better manage the situation?
  2. Now I can never believe what you say. I don’t trust you. 
  3. You don’t have my back. If you did, you would have told me.

Any of these three thoughts is enough to kill a business relationship and open the door for your competition. More than one heightens the chances your relationship won’t last long.

How do you forge ahead when you have bad news for a customer?  It’s pretty simple (but not easy):

  1. Take a deep breath and just tell them. Don’t delay. Don’t put it off. As soon as you know for sure that there’s trouble, call them. Keep in mind that if you’re not going to meet your customer’s expectations, they are going to be angry. Period. Better to tell them as soon as you know about it than to let the delivery date pass without a word of warning. You can be sure that will make your customer much angrier than a heads-up phone call ever will. 
  2. If you have bad news to deliver, think of it as an opportunity to build your relationship with your customer. Don’t simply give the bad news. Instead, use your consultation and selling skills to ask questions and help the buyer through this complication. By seeing this problem through your customer’s eyes, you may identify some ways you can resolve the issue and address their needs. This will help your customer see you as someone who is helping to solve their problem, not just someone who is creating a problem.

Does this strategy pay off? Big time!

One of my mentors built a magazine publishing empire that he eventually sold for millions. When I asked him to tell me his number-one strategy for building his business, he said that as the publisher, he personally took every complaint call from his advertisers. He did it to show them he cared—but after he solved their problems, they were open to talking about new business opportunities. He said something I’ve never forgotten: When else are you guaranteed to have 100 percent of your customer’s attention except when they have a problem? Salespeople will kill for that. 

Bad news has serious implications for maintaining relationships and growing your business. You can learn to handle these situations with skill and finesse and ultimately bolster your client relationships. Click here to learn more about delivering bad news.