How to say no to a customer… without losing them

How to say no to a customer… without losing them

Nobody enjoys having a request refused with a flat ‘no’ – least of all customers. However, there are times when support staff have to say no to a customer, which is not the most pleasant part of their job!

Here are some tips on how to say ‘no’ to a customer in a way that should defuse the situation, and end the interaction on a more positive note.

Ask for clarification

Before you say no, it’s vital that you understand what the customer is asking for and why. Ask for more information and get all the relevant details.

You may still not be able to comply with their request, but at least will feel that you’ve listened actively and taken their interaction seriously. Asking them exactly what they’re trying to achieve may also enable you to come up with a viable alternative more easily.

Project empathy and use positive language

The key is that if you have to refuse the customer’s request, you do so with kindness and respect. You have to let the customer know that you see them as a fellow human being, and can see the situation from their perspective.

Show them that you understand why they are making the request. Empathy can also make the customer feel that you are their ally, and that you really regret not being able to comply with their request.

Similarly, using positive, honest language reinforces the fact that you respect the customer, and it keeps the possibility for future interactions alive. The customer must never feel that getting in touch with you was just a waste of time.

Always ensure that the customer ‘feels heard’ and acknowledged

Often, just making an aggravated customer feel that you are truly listening to them can already start defusing a fraught situation. Be polite, appreciative of their time and effort, and courteously use the customer’s name and title. Try never to sound rushed, impatient, or dismissive.

Related content: When customers attack!

Be honest about why you can’t comply with their request

Don’t waffle and squirm and make excuses – and never lie! Just be honest. Admit that you can’t comply with their request, and give them clear and rational reasons why you can’t do so. Good companies will always make sure that their agents understand why certain requests are against company policy and can’t be acceded to.

Thank the customer for dealing with your brand

This is a crucially important point. Remember that the customer could have gone to one of your competitors, yet they chose to come to you, so always thank them for that. You must, however, sound genuine and sincere. If the customer thinks you are just spouting empty words, they will not be convinced of your goodwill and appreciation for their custom.

Related content: 10 inspiring customer service quotes to motivate your team

Ask customers for feedback

Make it clear that though you can’t comply with their request, you still value their opinion. You want your team to know about their request and consider its implications. Ask them if they would be kind enough to complete a brief questionnaire or survey.

Customer requests that your current policies don’t allow you to comply with can well be something that your company needs to take note of and learn from. Learning more about your customers still remains the best way to ensure your customer service delivery is the best that it can be.

Provide helpful alternative options

Offering the customer viable alternatives is much more helpful than a flat out ‘No’. Tell the customer what other services or products your company can provide, to see if you can’t possibly work around their problem to find a viable resolution.

If need be, you can even go outside of your own company and recommend another business that might be able to fulfil their need, as crazy as that might sound!

Remember, it’s all about keeping that customer’s goodwill. They will feel grateful that you cared enough to do so. The interaction will end on a positive note, making it much more likely that that customer will come back in the future. Plus, your competitor might well feel grateful and refer some business back your way in the future!

Keep the conversation going

Continuing to share helpful, personalised, and relevant content with these customers will ensure that your brand remains on their radar. However, make sure that the promotions, blog posts or news articles or research that you share with them are relevant and helpful for that specific customer.

In conclusion

Customer support agents will from time to time come across customers who are simply being unreasonable and manipulative. Most customers, however, are decent people who will respond to reason, courtesy, and fair dealing.

Even if you can’t give them exactly what they want this time, the fact you tried counts for a lot – and is your best shot at keeping them loyal to your brand.