If You Have Bad News Give Them A Sandwich- The Art Of The Bad News Sandwich

Introverts thrive being prepared. Of course in sales or customer service, when we have to deliver bad news, it can help to have a kind of template which we can be creative with to deal with the potential conflict. Here is something for the introvert who wants to master giving bad news, one bite at a time: If You Have Bad News Give Them A Sandwich- The Art Of The Bad News Sandwich by guest blogger, Pete Kontakos

When you are dealing with clients and customers it is inevitable that you one day you will be asked to deliver some bad news to them. As a professional your goal is to give them the bad news in a way that leaves them understanding that you care and if possible, have a solution to their problem.


The old adage “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it” holds even more weight when the person you are speaking can contribute to you financially or can make or break your workday depending on their response. So how do you deliver potentially bad news in a delicate manner in order to build upon your relationship with your client?

Bad News Sandwich

The bad news sandwich is a technique that is used in order to break bad news gently in a business environment. It can also be used situationally in personal relationships but is not necessarily needed as often because in a personal relationship the person knows you and probably knows you are not being malicious or unhelpful.  The three parts of a bad news sandwich includes empathy (top bun), the bad news (the meat) and either more empathy or a solution (bottom bun).

Top Bun

The 1st step of the sandwich is the top bun or layer; in this case you are using empathy. Empathy is the ability to express that you feel and understand how the person you are speaking with feels. This is very important because it shows your client that you care about what they are going through and can understand how the situation is troubling to them.

For example if you are in insurance and your customer had his vehicle totaled in an accident a line that shows some empathy may be “I’m so sorry to hear that, I hope everyone is ok.” This shows the client that you feel for them and you care about his health and well being.

The Meat

The meat is the middle of your bad news sandwich. This is the part that can be difficult to deliver but is a must in order for the client to understand that new options will have to be explored soon. A customer that has purchased a vitamin b12 vial that has expired might have news delivered to him like this- “I apologize for the inconvenience Mr. Smith; I understand how frustrating that can be. I do show here that you purchased the product 4 months ago, according to the accompanying information the product has a shelf life of 10 weeks.”

This scenario included the top bun and the meat. As you can see there is empathy involved in the reply, followed by the bad news. Had the sales person simply said “The package says it only lasts 10 weeks!” then the client will likely have been left feeling that the company representative was rude and uncaring.

Bottom Bun

The bottom bun is usually a solution to the bad news if one is available, if there is none it will usually be followed by more empathy. In most cases there is some sort of solution, even if it might cost the client more money at the time.

Let’s assume a client purchased a mobile phone that no longer works the scenario might play out like this, “Mrs. Jones I can understand how frustrating it is to have a phone that does not work properly but I see that this particular device has water damage based on the moisture trapped below the screen. While this is not covered under warranty I see that you have insurance on the phone which has a small deductible of just $75.”

In the example above Mrs. Jones is not happy about her phone issue but the sales person showed compassion and could relate to Mrs. Jones’s problem. Next the representative had to explain that the issue was caused by outside damage and not a defect, which is bad news for Mrs. Jones but then the rep provided a solution to her, even though it may cost her more money.

This is a far better reply than Mrs. Jones walking in with her broken phone and the rep simply stating, “Well no wonder it’s not working, you got it wet!”

Making Customers Happy

In business it is not possible to solve every customer’s problem in the time or manner that they would like 100% of the time. When these times present themselves the way the message is delivered can go a long way in how a customer feels when they leave you or your business.

Next time you are dealing with a customer who has an issue that may cost him time or money try using the bad news sandwich to soften the blow.

Featured images:

Pete Kontakos  is a blogger with experience and a District and General Management. He is also a big fan of amateur wrestling, mixed martial arts and all sports in general. He is a certified wrestling coach through USA Wrestling. He also will be contributing new content to US Pet Medicine as a guest author if you are interested in reading about Pets and other animals.

Sign Up Now

* We don't like spam either so we won't share your email with anyone else.

About guestauthor


  1. Pat, I love this concept. Thanks for the reminder. I had taught it even to my kids. The other place I find it most useful is with my hubby . . .LOL. It really helps to make bad news more palatable.

  2. I smiled, have used this very technique when I worked as an Executive with my staff and irate or disgruntled customers. We actually provided training for our sales staff in how to effectively implement this strategy when the need would arise. It generally works very well. 🙂
    Susan Cooper recently posted…Wine Tasting Room Etiquette: #WineMy Profile

  3. Jeannette Paladino

    Yes, always a good idea to show empathy. It would have helped when I walked up to the movie box office a couple of days ago — having bought a ticket online — to see “Nebraska” and the attendant brusquely asked me. “You are aware, aren’t you, that the theatre has no heat, it’s broken.” And I responded, “How would I know that?” Her better opening would have been to ask if I still wanted to keep my ticket and get a free bag of popcorn, or get a refund. The theater manager should have shown her how to give a “sandwich.”
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted…Has Google Killed Organic Traffic?My Profile

  4. Cheryl Therrien

    The name of the game is customer service. Although I recognize good customer service, I would not make a good CSR. As an introvert I make it a point to be prepared. If I was a CSR, I would definitely need to have these points in mind when dealing with people.
    Cheryl Therrien recently posted…Making Slippery Elm Balls With GrandchildrenMy Profile

  5. Works when dealing with students too. Come to think of it, it also is a great technique for teaching how to effectively incorporate researched material into a paper. Who know a sandwich metaphor could be used for so many purposes?
    Jeri recently posted…Writing Process Blog Hop #amwritingMy Profile

  6. Excellent customer service is essential in our online world. If not, your reputation can be ruined world-wide.

    Using empathy is crucial if you want a customer to accept the bad news you are delivering. If not, he/she may went their grievances online in a forum that ends up on top of Google SERPS when someone googles your company.
    Catarina recently posted…What’s your online reputation worth?My Profile

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This