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How to Use SMS to Deliver Bad News to Your Customers

Despite our best efforts, sometimes we let our customers down. When done correctly, SMS marketing can be a highly effective way to deliver bad news. Learn how.

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Let’s start with the obvious: no one likes hearing bad news.

Delayed flights, product shipping troubles, you name it. Whatever it is, one text from you filled with bad news can put customers in a sour mood. More than that, delivering bad news in the wrong way can hurt your brand reputation and drive customers away. 

But sometimes bad news is inevitable, and it’s always best to be honest and upfront with your customers.

So, for the occasions when you find yourself delivering bad news to a customer over text, we’re going to talk about the best ways to ease the blow.

How to Give Your Customers Bad News With SMS

Wondering how to deliver bad news in a positive way—or at least in a way that feels, well, less bad? First things first, let’s go over some of the strategies you’ll need to make bad news sound as good as possible and some bad news examples.

Be Prompt

We recommend being timely in sending bad news for a couple of reasons. 

First of all, you’ll want your customer to hear the news from you. If you wait too long, they might hear it from an outside source.  

Here’s an example: imagine if you had to report a late flight and your customer only found out about it because they checked their flight status. It wouldn’t make you look great.

Second of all, letting people know about bad news early means they can change their plans with plenty of time if they need to.

Say your customer bought a Christmas gift from you and they’re headed out of town next week. They need their present to arrive on time, but due to shipping issues, it won’t get there when it’s expected. Letting them know of any delays immediately gives them time to find another gift before it’s too late.

Choose the Right Tone

Everyone has heard a non-apology before.It’s pretty easy to tell when someone is being vague to avoid responsibility for a mistake.

Here’s an example of what not to do:

“Due to unforeseen circumstances, your order has been delayed. There’s no estimate on time, but stay tuned for more news. Apologies if this is inconvenient.”

It’s unspecific, impersonal, and completely frustrating. Try something like this instead:

“We’re so sorry to tell you this, but our supplier is understaffed, which means your order is delayed. We expect a delay of a week, but you’ll get a text from us tomorrow with a more specific estimate. Take 10% off your next order with our apologies.”

That one sounds like it came from a human being, and your customers will be much more likely to take it well.

Be Sympathetic and Understanding

Going on from the previous point, you want to let your customers know that you get that this is an inconvenience and you’re sorry about it. That doesn’t mean you have to grovel, but do include a simple “We understand how frustrating this is.”

All this means is that you should avoid simply saying, “Your flight has been canceled. Thank you.” Give the details, but add a human touch to it, as well. 

Give Up-to-Date Information 

One of the worst things you can do when sending a bad news text is to leave the recipient hanging about what’s going to happen now that you’ve run into a roadblock. 

Instead, you can go about updating your customers in a couple of ways.

If you don’t know how long delays might be, when new arrangements for orders can be made, or other important details, be honest about the fact that you don’t know and promise to follow up ASAP (and then really do it).

If you have an updated timeline for when you can correct the situation, share it. For the most part, people understand that things don’t always go as planned. If you can share what you’re doing to turn the bad news around, your customers are more likely to be understanding.

Be Open to Questions and Feedback

If you’ve run into a last-minute SNAFU before, you know that the first thing to come to mind are a million questions. 

How long is the delay? Can I make other arrangements? Is there someone I can talk to about my order status? 

You may have noticed that the worst business reviews pertain to bad customer service. Brands suffer more when they fail to fix mistakes than when the mistakes happen in the first place.

The best way to make sure your customers feel cared for when you deliver bad news is to make sure you hear their concerns and answer any questions they have.

This could look like adding, “We’re here for you. Reply with any questions you have and we’ll answer them right away.”

If they send concerns or even express how upset they are, reply with something like, “We get how upsetting this is. Your order is now set to arrive on Thursday, and we’re happy to offer you free shipping on your next 3 orders, on us.”

Things to Avoid When Sending Bad News

That’s a few helpful tips for what you should do when you have to send your customers bad news, but there’s also a few “don’ts” to consider. 

  • Don’t overdo it with the apologies. Let them know you’re sorry and offer a solution if you can, but don’t fill the whole text with variations on “We apologize.”
  • Don’t leave customers who have questions or concerns waiting on an answer, even if you don’t have much information right away. Send them a preliminary text that says, “We received your question and we’re working on an answer. We’ll get back to you ASAP.”
  • Don’t ask what you can do to fix the problem. Come up with a solution you can use when roadblocks and mistakes happen, whether it’s a discount code or a special offer.
  • Don’t waste characters in your text dancing around the issue. Be concise and straightforward in communicating the problem and letting customers know about next steps.

The Role of SMS Marketing in Delivering Bad News

Even if you tell someone bad news over text in the most delicate way, you may still get negative feedback from your audience. When done right, SMS marketing can help repair trust and give customers a positive view of your brand. 

If you already have a strong SMS marketing strategy, your brand will likely be able to recover from any negative feedback. If not, now is the time to start brushing up on text marketing best practices, the best time to send SMS messages, and more.

Plus, you can check out our guide to see how SMS marketing works.

The Wrap on Delivering Bad News Over Text

Every business owner wishes they could avoid sending customers news they don’t want to hear. 

Delivering bad news to a customer is occasionally part of running a business. We encourage you to use texting’s fast speeds and reliable open rates to get your customers the information they need immediately.

Ready to get started? Try out SimpleTexting for 14 days, totally free.

Lily Norton
Lily Norton

Lily is a content marketing specialist at SimpleTexting. She specializes in making helpful, entertaining video content and writing blogs that help businesses take advantage of all that texting has to offer. When she’s not writing or making TikToks, you can find Lily at roller derby practice or in a yoga studio in the Seattle area.

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