Learning how to deliver “bad” news, tackle sensitive topics or respond to a complicated issue is a skill that’s super useful – if not absolutely necessary – both internally and in your interactions with customers and clients. Here’s some help with the latter: communicating with your customers in a way that gets your message across with sensitivity, understanding and tact.
This lesson is really all about empathy.
Empathy is at the core of customer-benefit-driven copy. It’s the key to writing those fee increase letters, customer complaint responses or overdue payment reminders in a way that leaves people thinking, at worst, “Well this is a pain, but I understand” and at best: “I really like the way they communicated this with me and I have a positive lasting impression.”
Empathy begins with prioritising them as much as you.
Empathy is about understanding that your communication is going to provoke certain responses, then trying to manage those responses. It’s anticipating questions and feelings, and addressing them so that the person feels understood.
Let’s take an insurance company – who needs to communicate a premium increase – as a practical example. Armed with your primary and secondary messages, write down a list of potential customer responses, like “Why are premiums increasing?”, “Do I need to do anything in response to this letter?”, “I don’t want to pay an increased premium, what are my other options?”, “Is this policy still worth it?” Or even just “How do I talk to someone about this?”
By the end of your communication, you should have addressed the most important of these concerns – with a link or call to action to cover off anything else.
About that all-important opening sentence...
How to keep things positive in the face of bad news
Your ultimate goal here is to make sure, despite this piece of news, that people still feel their association with you is “worth it”. So if you have positive points that can help to balance out your “bad” news, that’s great.
But even when you don’t have any good news to add a positive spin, here are three other things that can add positivity even in the face of bad news:
Even bad news can be good for your business
When your communications show understanding and generosity – both tangibly or emotionally – it humanises your brand. You can win back a customer, or create a loyal customer for life. You might even turn the situation into a sales opportunity. So when you have a piece of difficult news to deliver, start with empathy, write with honesty and keep an eye on your goal: turning something negative into a communication that leaves your reader with a positive lasting impression.
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