How to Deliver Bad News to a Client

How to Deliver Bad News to a Client

Do you have some bad news and wondering how to deliver it to a client? It honestly shouldn’t be rocket science.

No one likes the thought or idea of having to receive or deliver bad news.

This is because it not only ruins an expectation, it leads to anger and disappointments.

However, receiving and delivering bad news is often not within our control.

This is because we can only predict or determine certain outcomes to a reasonable extent.

Of course, bad news pertains to our personal lives.

But it also pertains to other spheres of life, such as business. 

Despite best practices and intentions, the sad reality is that not every client expectation can be catered to.

Therefore, this leads to the unsavory task of delivering bad news to your clients.

If this becomes the inevitable course of action, then it is important to deliver this also in a professional manner.

That way, it saves the organization’s image and places the customer on the path to recovery.

This article will highlight the meaning of bad news to enable you to deliver this information to your client.

We will also talk about mediums for delivering bad news.

Moreover, we will look at the tips to guide you in delivering bad news to a client.

How to Deliver Bad News to a Client – What is Bad News for a Client?

The bad news is information or a negative and unpleasant message that can provoke or disappoint the client.

Additionally, bad news causes a reverse in a client’s plan and expectations.

Bad news varies across businesses, companies, and organizations.

Its variation also applies to the intensity or gravity of the bad news.

It could be a doctor telling a patient about a critical health condition.

Or it could be a lawyer informing a client about the verdict of a case.

Also, rejection of a proposal or grant application or a failed project or task.

It could also be an inability to meet a deadline.

Mediums for Delivering Bad News to a Client

It is essential for a business to carefully determine which medium would be best to deliver bad news.

This is because delivering bad news to a client goes beyond the message or the presentation of the message.

The medium in which the news is being conveyed determines the impact of such news on the client.

Therefore, the medium through which your news is delivered is crucial.

This is as crucial as your ability to deliver your news appropriately.

Overall, there have been several opinions about the best ways in which bad news can be delivered to a client.

However, we will share with you and highlight the mediums in which bad news can be delivered.

This will be depending on the gravity of the bad news.

They include:


Emails, also known as electronic mails, are seen as one of the most convenient methods of delivering bad news.

However, emails prove to be less effective in some cases as they might not convey empathy or give you an insight into our client’s mood at the time.

You should know that clients, depending on their mood, can read whatever tone or meaning of the message.

This might defeat the aim of delivering the message appropriately.

Text Messages

Bad news can be delivered using another electronic method of communication known as text messages.

Text messages are faster than emails and help to deliver bad news to your clients in real-time.

Though text messages can be read and misunderstood by the client, you cannot determine your client’s mood after receiving the news.

Phone Calls

Placing a phone call through to your client is another convenient way to deliver bad news to them. 

It is faster, and just like text messages, delivers messages in real-time.

Delivering bad messages via phone calls has an added advantage above emails and text messages. 

Phone calls help you determine the appropriate tone in which you will convey the message to your client.

Also, you can express your concern and empathy towards your client’s situation during the phone call.

Additionally, you can figure out your client’s mood over a phone call and answer any questions your client might have after receiving the news.

Video Conference Calls

Video conference calls are a good and highly recommended way to deliver bad news to a client.

It is a face-to-face conversation with your client.

Video conference calls not only give you an audio signal as to your client’s mood, but it also gives you a visual signal as well.

Unlike the earlier started mediums, this medium adds more value to the delivery of the message and emotions.

It can be done via Skype, Hang out, Zoom, or any other video conferencing call applications of your choice.

Face to Face (In-person) Conversation

Having a face-to-face, physical conversation when delivering bad news to a client is the most effective, most efficient, and the best way to deliver bad news to a client.

You have more insight into your client’s verbal and nonverbal expressions, and you can show your client the support and care that they need at that moment.

A face-to-face conversation is often recommended for very intense sensitive bad news.

The scheduling of a face-to-face meeting might not be as fast as that of the previously highlighted mediums.

In addition to the best mediums for delivering bad news to a client, leaving a voicemail or voice message for a client containing bad news is highly unadvisable.

Not only will clients be unable to ask the questions they need to ask after receiving the news.

They’ll also not be able to check their voice messages as quickly as you would have wanted the news to be delivered.

Also, there is no guarantee whether the setting of the time they received the voice message was appropriate.

Furthermore, making use of mail while delivering bad news to a client is not advisable, as mails take a while and go through many processes before getting to the client.

Thereby defeating the purpose of delivering the message as quickly as possible.

And also, the client might misinterpret the tone in which the message was written and the words used in delivering the news.

Importance of Delivering Bad News to Clients Appropriately

Despite best practices and intentions, the sad reality is that not every client expectation can be catered to.

And this leads to the unsavory task of informing the customer of bad news.

Here are some of the reasons why businesses should carefully and appropriately deliver bad news to a client:

It Builds Trust and Confidence

Building trust and confidence by delivering bad news to a client seems ridiculous.

This is because every business is to build trust and confidence in the minds of their clients by providing them with good news and not the opposite.

However, you can also gain a client’s confidence and trust by delivering bad news using the right words.

Also, by showing them that you care, using the right mediums and tips, alongside honesty and truth.

Good or bad news, the client does not want to be lied to or deceived.

Straightforwardness and honesty help clients to trust you even in a bad situation.

Maintaining a Relationship with the Client

Delivering bad news to your clients in the right way and manner helps you retain and maintain your relationship with the client.

Though the situation or news might be unpleasant and disappointing, clients and businesses can work together by moving past the news to something new.

Maintaining Brand Image and reputation.

It is true businesses might not be able to retain some clients after delivering bad news.

However, they can maintain their brand image and reputation by delivering the bad news and assisting their clients through the entire process.

Clients might have to leave the business, but they will not have anything negative to say about your business to others.

Thereby helping your business or brand to maintain and boost its positive image and brand reputation.

Learn More About your Limitations

Additionally, delivering bad news to a client helps you acknowledge your mistakes and learn more about your limitations. 

Learning more about your limitations makes you ask yourself why and how you failed to deliver the expected results to your clients.

It also involves reconsidering your position and seeking new opportunities to expand your parameters.

How to Deliver Bad News to a Client 

Every business aims to ensure that they do not let their customers down.

Therefore, they try to avoid situations where they have to give bad news to their clients.

However, often, you might find yourself in a position where you have to tell your clients certain news or information that might not be what the client was expecting to hear.

Due to the sensitivity of the news, it needs to be delivered in a manner that does not anger the customer or cause the customer to leave your business.

Here are tips to help you manage the impact of the bad news on your client;

Deliver the News to the Client Promptly

As reluctant as you might feel about delivering bad news to your client, you must tell your client as quickly as possible.

This is because bad news is not any information you withhold from your client for a long time.

You also do not want your client to find out from a source other than you.

Delivering bad news quickly helps you to move past the news and find solutions to new opportunities.


Preparation is an essential tip for delivering bad news to a client.

You should have prepared properly, understood the negative situation and how your client might react.

Also, the best mediums to communicate the bad news and the next step or cause of action should be considered.

Be Honest and Truthful When Delivering Bad News to your Client

Delivering bad news to a client should be done honestly and truthfully.

The situation is already bad, so there is no need to beat around the bush or sugarcoat anything.

Rather, consider diplomatically telling the client the truth about the current situation.

Any lie or dishonestly can further upset the client and alternate the client’s mood and expectations.

Personalize your Approach

When delivering bad news to a client, you shouldn’t sound robotic or automated.

Using personal approaches like their names and information is essential, as well as addressing the client directly.

Use the Right Choice of Words

Using the right words, phrases, and sentences when delivering bad news to a client is integral.

Bad news can be delivered using the right words to lessen the impact, prevent an escalation of the situation, and prevent your client from leaving the business.

Be Neutral

One of how bad news can be delivered to a client appropriately is to be emotionally detached from delivering the message to the client.

In the process of doing this, a straightforward statement in as few words as possible is ideal, especially when the client is anxious to hear the outcome.

The quicker and more direct, the better to avoid misleading and cloudy statements.

If the client presses further and wants clarification, it’s important to stick to the story and only provide technical details if necessary.

Be Bold

Being bold while delivering bad news to a client involves showing confidence and certainty that you have tried your best to help the client achieve the expected result. 

Any form of confusion or uncertainty on your part can cause the client to have doubts about your abilities and capabilities.

The client would also sort for solutions elsewhere, holding in mind that you failed to satisfy his or her needs.

This could lead to a taint in your brand’s image and reputation.

Acknowledge the Client’s Feelings

Bad news often has negative impacts on the clients too who you deliver them.

One way to help them through the process of your delivery is by acknowledging and respecting their feelings.

Clients process and reacts to bad news in different ways, regardless of how they chose to react and process the news, do not disregard their feelings.

Rather, acknowledge their feelings and how hard it is for them to receive the bad news.

Give your Client a Valid Explanation

Your client deserves an explanation, so give it to him or her when delivering the bad news.

An explanation is not an excuse; rather, it is the facts and the factors that resulted in the bad news.

Giving your client a valid explanation could also mean providing your client with information that helps him or her to understand the situation better.

Consider the Environment and Time

While it is advisable to deliver bad news to your client as quickly as possible, you also consider the environment, setting, and time.

Some environments are not appropriate for delivering bad news, neither are some timing.

Privacy is key when delivering bad news to a client, which is why a face-to-face conversation is always a better option.

This is because that way, you can determine the environment, the time, and the client’s mood and the opportunity for them to express themselves after receiving the bad news freely. 

Apologize if Necessary

In as much as the delivery of bad news needs to be precise and straightforward, an apology should be offered to the client.

It is often before or after the bad news has been delivered to the client.

Politeness is needed even if getting rid of the client altogether is the aim.

Show Empathy When Delivering Bad News to a Client

Acknowledge your client’s feelings by letting them know that you care and allowing them to speak and vent.

Also, listen attentively and respectively to all the client has to say after receiving the news without interrupting the client or talking too much.

This shows you have empathy and care for their feeling.

Thereby lightening the negative impact of the bad news.

Do not Blame the Client

Delivering bad news to a client is not an avenue or opportunity to blame the client regardless of whatever contributed to the situation.

It is the time to inform the client of the news and look for a way forward.

Offer Help and Solutions

Offer your clients help and assistance by remaining positive and informing them of any remedy or step that can be taken/

Also, please provide them with alternatives or refer them to a professional or business that can provide solutions.

Follow up Promptly

Do not only deliver bad news to your client. Help them through the process of figuring it out and seeking solutions.

It can be done through emails, phone calls, text messages, etc.

Conclusion on How to Deliver Bad News to a Client

Delivering bad news to clients is a situation that can be handled properly using the right words, mediums, and tactics.

The tips provided in this article will guide you by ensuring that you do not lose your relationship with the client.

It would also ensure you do not lose your brand’s image and reputation while delivering bad news to the client.