No matter what business you’re in, there will be a time when you have to tell your customer something they don’t want to hear. Maybe the special order they’ve been so eager to receive didn’t come in on time. Maybe the tax return you just prepared for them reveals they’re going to be paying Uncle Sam way more than they expected. In our business, servers sometimes crash, sites get hacked – bad things happen and you have to let your clients know that there’s a problem.
These conversations are never fun.
Even the most understanding of customers doesn’t want to hear bad news, and let’s face it: not everyone is the most understanding person you’re ever going to meet. Some people don’t handle disappointment well. They can get angry, or hostile, or otherwise very emotional.
This is an area where we, as business owners, have something to learn from our doctors. Physicians are often in a position where they have to deliver bad news. Depending on their specialty, sometimes they have to deliver VERY bad news. You think you’ve seen a customer upset when their special order didn’t arrive on time? Try telling them they’ve got pancreatic cancer and will be dead in a year.
Yeah. That’s got to be way rougher than anything I experience, even on my worst business day. What I’ve learned, though, is that doctors actually train to deliver bad news in the best way possible. This is actually part of their education. Instructors go over both the psychology of the bad news moment and the communication skills that will help a physician help his patient at that point of crisis.
Not every doctor is great at this of course, but I’ll tell you one thing: having training is always better than having no training when it comes to navigating business challenges successfully. Researching the process physicians went through made me better able to understand how to share any bad news with my clients in the best way possible. Sometimes we can really learn a lot by observing how other professions handle challenges that are similar to the ones we’re facing.
With that in mind, let me ask you, how’s your bedside manner?