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What Happens When the Customer is Wrong? How Do You Say “No”?

If you’ve been in business more than a day, you’ve probably heard the tired old saying regarding how often customers are right. In the real world though, even if you want to believe this, you can’t always satisfy every whim of every customer out there. It’s just not possible.

So, when faced with this situation, how can you say no to a customer? The truth is, it’s always going to be a little bit difficult, but there are ways that you can do it without rupturing an otherwise valuable business relationship. This requires a little art, a little patience and a little strategy. Here are some tips for saying no to your clients without bringing about negative effects on your business.

  1. Ask for some empathy. This is especially effective if you’ve had a long relationship with a customer. They’re probably looking at things only from their own point of view, but by asking them to focus for a second on where you’re coming from, you may be able to help them understand why you can’t accommodate them in this particular instance. This can help limit any hard feelings about not being able to provide them with what they were hoping for this time around.
  2. Stay personal. It doesn’t matter how polite you are, if you send a form email or offer a scripted rejection over the telephone, it is going to sting with even the most even-tempered customer. It makes them feel like you don’t value their business, and that is a sure road to ruin. Instead, be friendly, don’t be afraid to be personal, and let the history of your relationship with a customer inform the way you treat them and their rejection. This will help keep that relationship intact.
  3. Just the facts. A rejection without an explanation is going to leave a bad taste in many customer’s mouth. By the same token, empty platitudes aren’t helpful either. However, taking the time to really outline the real reasons why it’s not possible or practical to meet customer expectations this time is something that most people will listen to. Even if it is frustrating for them, at least there is no ambiguity or confusion as to why you could not accommodate them, which leaves the door open for future business dealings.
  4. Do What You Can. Even if it is not possible to offer a customer exactly what they want, there is a good chance that there is something else you could offer them. Meeting a customer halfway, offering an alternative product or service, or offering a discount on future dealings can help take the bite out of a deal that didn’t go the way they hoped.

Even with these tips, it’s going to feel hard at times to say no to customers. However, if you keep these points in mind, you should find that when you do, your relationship escapes with minimal bruising.

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