4 years ago
May 26, 2020

8 Tips for Having Difficult Conversations With Customers During Uncertain Times

COVID-19 has created countless challenges for companies in all industries. Shutdowns, delays, service interruptions, and many other unforeseen issues have forced companies to have difficult conversations with customers. It’s not…

Rhys Metler

COVID-19 has created countless challenges for companies in all industries. Shutdowns, delays, service interruptions, and many other unforeseen issues have forced companies to have difficult conversations with customers.

It’s not business as usual. This is putting a strain on your relationship with your customers.

“As the world joins forces to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, two foundations of customer loyalty—trust and confidence—are being put to the test. During this global crisis, customer moments matter more than ever,” says Andy Main on wsj.com.

“Brands that put customers’ interests first can set an example of leadership. Finding ways to help customers—for example, by temporarily instituting more flexible refund, change, and pricing policies, even at the expense of the near-term bottom line—may burnish a brand in the long term,” he adds.

How you manage your customer relationships and the conversations you have with your customers today will impact how your company stays afloat now and rebounds in the future.

Here, our Toronto sales recruiters have outlined some important advice for having those difficult conversations with your customers during these uncertain times:

1. Have the Conversation

As much as you probably don’t want to have difficult conversations, they have to be had. You can’t avoid them. You can’t be unavailable. Uncertain times are when you need to communicate more than ever. If you fail to do so, you will lose customers. When times are tough is when you show your true value and loyalty. It’s when you prove to your customers they made the right decision in choosing to do business with you.

Toronto sales recruiters advise on having difficult conversations with customers

2. Make Sure Everyone Is on the Same Page

Your company messaging needs to be on point. This is even more important when you have multiple employees speaking with customers. Your entire team needs to have the same information. The last thing you want to happen is to have one employee tell a customer one thing and then another tells them something contradicting. This could cause your customers to question the truth and your reliability. Be clear with all messaging.

3. Stay Ahead of the Curve

Having difficult news for your customers is not an ideal situation. Whether it’s a delayed shipment, temporary shortage, or a shift in how you offer support, you need to stay ahead of the curve and get out in front of it.

One way to help lessen the blow is to be proactive. Speak with them as soon as you anticipate an issue. Try not to be reactive. Come to them with the news, but also have a plan for how you are managing the situation. Your customers will expect some disruption during this time. It’s how you handle it that matters most.

4. Honesty Is the Best Policy

Being upfront and honest about all situations is vital. But it’s not easy delivering bad news, especially if you anticipate you’ll receive some backlash. Being honest can earn you trust from your customers. They know it’s hard to deliver bad news.

5. Don’t Sugar-Coat

You may be tempted to tell your customers what they want to hear. You’ll also be tempted to focus less on the bad news and overstate the good. You want to keep your customers’ concerns to a minimum. While your intention may be good, you can’t keep your customers in the dark. They need to know what is happening in real-time so they can react and make alternative arrangements. If you sugar-coat things, it could impact their decision-making process on their end.

6. Don’t Speculate

Speculation will not help you. Only communicate the information you know for sure. Customers want to hear what is going to happen, not what might happen. Speculation could get you in more hot water with your customers if things do not play out as anticipated.

7. Know Who You Are Talking To

Every customer is unique. The type of conversation you have and how you break the news to a customer can change based on who you are speaking with. For example, some people just want the facts. Others want all the details. Some people are emotional, others are logical. Understand your audience and adjust your approach to the conversation.

8. Follow Up

Bad news can be tough to swallow. Once you have a difficult conversation with a customer, it’s important to circle back. Check-in on them and see if there is anything you can do to support them.  Maybe you can help. Maybe not. But the fact that you checked in and stayed in close contact shows that you have your customers’ best interests in mind. They’ll appreciate this.

Get More Insightful Advice From Toronto Sales Recruiters

A crisis, economic downturn, and uncertain times are when you will have most of your difficult conversations with your customers. Check out these blogs that offer actionable advice you can use to navigate these challenging times:

Tips for Leveraging Technology to Close Sales Remotely

8 Ways to Be a Proactive Sales Leader During a Crisis

7 Tips for Closing Sales in an Economic Downturn

7 Ways to Be a Leader in a Time of Crisis

6 Highly Effective Ways to Keep Customers Coming Back

5 Ways to Say “I’m Sorry” to Customers When a Sale Goes Wrong

5 Effective Ways to Retain Customers


SalesForce Search is a Toronto sales recruiting company which specializes in the recruitment and placement of sales professionals. We recruit salespeople in every sector of the economy including, software, manufacturing, financial services and medical devices. Find the right salesperson for your organization, start your search here.

Rhys Metler

Rhys is a tenacious, top performing Senior Sales Recruiter with 15+ years of focused experience in the Digital Media, Mobile, Software, Technology and B2B verticals. He has a successful track record of headhunting top performing sales candidates for some of the most exciting brands in North America. He is a Certified Recruitment Specialist (CRS) and has expert experience in prospecting new business, client retention/renewals and managing top performing sales and recruitment teams. Rhys enjoys spending quality time with his wife, son, and daughters, BBQing on a hot summer day and tropical vacations.