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Ade Olabode: How to Communicate with Your Team When Things Go Wrong



dreamstime_s_46186482Most people detest bad customer service. As for me, I hate it. And if you’ve follow my regular column right here on BellaNaija, you will notice that I write a lot on customer service issues, as it affects small businesses. You can find some here, here and here. So imagine my absolute horror when a potential customer left a comment last week, that they’ve tried contacting my team since Nov 2015 with no adequate response! Saying I was shocked is an understatement.

What did I do? I immediately apologised to the customer in question. (Yes, that’s expected). I then reached out to the rest of the team via email to find out what happened (also expected). But my email, on reflection, I felt I went over the top and became a keyboard warrior! I allowed my emotions get the better of me. I actually put this line in my email “I’m not smiling while typing this”. That was totally unnecessary. That’s definitely not how to communicate when things go wrong.

And things will go wrong. In business like life, the unexpected happens. But how you communicate within your team is very important as it can set the wrong tone and culture for your firm. Communication binds collaboration. However, it should be built on clarity, conciseness and consideration.

What makes communication good?

Good communication is one that is effective. One in which the desired result is achieved. Communication can be said to be the heartbeat of any business. As it is required for the smooth running of the business. So how then do we achieve good communication in time of crises?

I am a big fan of clear communication. It is essential for communication to exhibit clarity as it removes ambiguity. The core message is never lost as it remains the centrepiece. An email with convoluted message does no one any good. Do away with ambiguity. Make it clear.

It is one thing for communication to be clear and it is another thing for it to be concise. Brevity most of the time is a massive plus. Recipients stand a better chance of understanding the message. Keep it simple.

Correct recipients
For instance it certainly doesn’t make sense to send an email to the whole firm, if it’s actually intended for a specific recipient. However, you may argue that it’s better to share the learning lessons to the whole team to “carry everyone along”. While this is has good merits and is commendable, be careful to also consider the directly affected people.

This simply means being emphatic. Do you know how the recipients will perceive your message? Have you considered that the medium can change the context you intended? Do you have all relevant information? As an example, in this particular instance, we no longer have the customer’s details – hence why we couldn’t contact. I wasn’t aware of that information when I sent my email.

In all, did I respond properly to the customer when I saw the negative comment? I think I gave a good reply. But could have I communicated better internally? Definitely! And hopefully by sharing my experience openly, others will be willing to share what they could have done in such a situation in the comments below.

P.S – Don’t forget that you can still get the free 60 days offer to PrognoStore. PrognoStore is Point-of-Sale software for small business which helps you sell your goods/services, track your inventory and gain insight to run your business. It’s all you need to run your small business. Simply go to and enter Free4Bella for promo code to get 60 days free.

Papa Olabode is an adviser to small business owners. He's the co-founder & CEO of PrognoStore (, the Point-of-Sale Software for small businesses. PrognoStore is a 3-in-1 solution as it combines point-of-Sale, Inventory and Analytics to be all you need to run your store. He's a chartered accountant and has previously worked at Deloitte, Credit Suisse and co-founded HGE Capital. Follow on Twitter @papaolabode


  1. Simi

    March 3, 2016 at 10:56 am

    Very well said! Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Ade

      March 3, 2016 at 1:41 pm

      Thx Simi.

      BTW, Tuoyo in case you come across this, please drop me a line at [email protected] so I can resolve any issue. Thx!

  2. Iphee

    March 3, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    Customer service is an (often overlooked) integral part of any business, People think its all about setting up big beautiful and plush offices without taking time out to TRAIN their staff on how to respond to a dis satisfied customer. In this case external or internal ( your staff)

    Because most employees ( even huge corporate organizations) have a poor customer service attitude/culture ( they feel they are doing you the customer “a huge favour” by attending to you. The customer centered person always ends up looking like “busy body” or “over sabi”.

    This is why most foreign companies get away with soooooo much in Nigeria. Things cannot dream talk less of attempt in their countries is done here as business as usual for e,g how they ask you to keep going back to their office to register your SIM card I did mine 4 times oh

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