How to say no to a customer

Some of the biggest challenges in trying to deliver outstanding customer service are those times when you really have to say no to a customer’s request. Sometimes it’s because of a policy in place. Sometimes they’re looking for something you just don’t have. And, of course, sometimes what they are asking of you is just plain unreasonable.

It’s tough, because the whole concept of saying no seems counter-intuitive to the philosophy of doing whatever it takes to satisfy your customer. But the reality is that we simply can’t always give everyone what they want. So the question becomes, how do you say no to a customer in such a way that minimizes the potential for conflict?

There’s no perfect way, of course. But here’s one strategy that works very consistently.

  1.  Express regret. Say something like, ‘I really wish I could’ or ‘I’d like to’.
  2.  Explain the reasons why you can’t accommodate their request. (Avoid the words ‘policy’ and ‘process’)
  3.  Look for alternatives. Say something like ‘let’s see what we can do.’

This strategy lets the customer know that, while you might not be able to give them what they want, you’re willing to work with them to try and get them what they need. Make sure to ask your customers a lot of questions so you know the real purpose behind their request. The better you understand where they’re coming from, the easier it will be for you to find a workable solution.

Don’t be afraid to try and get a little creative.  Remember, while you might not always be able to give people what they want, you can often find ways to get them what they need!

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