Having to say “no” to a customer can be a difficult pill to swallow at times, especially when you empathize with the customer’s problem or issue, and you would like to say “yes”, but company policy does not permit it.

For example, if a consumer calls about a product failure in Year 3 for a product covered by a 1-year warranty, you may have to say “no” to a customer’s request (or demand) for a free replacement.

The most effective technique to use in situations like this one is to redirect the conversation as quickly as possible to what you can do, as opposed to dwelling on what you can’t do.

In our example, rather than keeping the conversation stuck on the warranty expiration issue, focus instead on the various available options for the customer and leading them to the best possible outcome for that customer from the available choices. Maybe you can assist them in arranging for a repair, or perhaps you can secure a discount for them on the purchase of a newer model. Much depends on the particular product, the relative cost and how much flexibility the company builds into its policies.

Regardless, the punch line is this: Always focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t.