The Customer Is Not Always Right; Say No to Customer

We’ve all been there: a customer wants you to ship a product in a color that you’ve never even heard of before, or demands a refund for a subscription they’ve been enjoying for seven months already. While you want to help them to the best of your ability, you also know that fulfilling their demands could run your business into the ground. It’s a difficult situation, because common wisdom dictates that, “the customer is always right.”

This pervasive idea makes it hard to say no to a customer. But sometimes a customer demands things you just can’t provide them. What’s a customer service agent to do?

You already know that the customer isn’t always right, but that doesn’t mean that the customer isn’t valuable to your operation. Follow the steps below to navigate the messy dilemma of denying a customer’s unreasonable request.

Identify When You Have to Deny a Customer

It’s easier to tell yourself that the customer is “always right” than to feel that way. And that’s because the reality is, the customer isn’t always right.

Listening to customer feedback is vital to successful operations, and generally it’s worth going the extra mile to ensure customer satisfaction. But customers don’t always know the best way you should position or develop your product. Other times they demand unreasonable discounts or returns that counter your policy—one that was put in place for a good reason.

Henry Ford famously insisted, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” Sometimes the limits you set are actually an asset in simplifying production or perpetuating your brand. It’s okay to say no, as long as it puts your company ahead instead of behind.

Talk to your team about customer service boundaries—clarity goes a long way in keeping support consistent. While it’s not wrong to say no, it is problematic if you don’t know when to say no.

Say no when:

  • You can’t honor the same request for all customers. If a customer asks for a perk or discount that you can’t honor for other customers, then it’s best to say no. You don’t want the news getting around that your company practices aren’t fair.
  • The customer threatened your physical or emotional safety. This may not be one you want to have to think about, but things happen and tempers flare. While you may be a pro at dealing with angry customers, it isn’t good to positively respond to any sort of threat as it will reinforce this terrible behavior. Try to calm the customer down first, and be sure to voice your concerns to another team member.
  • They ask for something that goes against company policy. Sometimes customers want discounts or free products that you aren’t licensed to give them. Don’t “break the rules just this once.” Your company has put certain measures in place in order to stay in business, not to punish customers.

Empathize with Your Customers

Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.– Damon Richards

It’s incredibly important to establish empathy before denying a customer request. If you simply reject their proposals outright, customers may feel that your company is dismissing their needs. Remember to verbalize your empathy. Use lines like:

I understand how you feel, and I’m very sorry.

I’m deeply sorry about *Issue*. Let me speak with my supervisor to see how we can correct this for you.

Treat Your Customers with Respect

You may think this is a given and a little too obvious to be worth stating. But respect isn’t communicated by simply being polite. There are several key factors to delivering a sense of respect to your customers:

  • Be consistent: Use the same rules for every customer. If you aren’t consistent, word will get around and that will make other customers feel slighted and less important. When denying someone on this basis, try a line like, “It wouldn’t be fair to our other customers.” Here are 5 ways to make sure your live chat support is consistent.
  • Deliver reasons: Saying “it’s our policy” can be as frustrating as a parent telling a child “because I said so!” Respect a customer’s intelligence by offering him or her a sound reason, like, “I’m sorry, it’s our policy because we want to deliver consistent service to all of our customers.
  • Be grateful: If a customer has brought something new to your attention or has made a suggestion, you should always thank them for thinking about the company even if their idea can’t be implemented. Try phrases like, “While we can’t currently offer that service, I want to thank you on behalf of the company for thinking about us.

Never Actually Use the Word “No”

The best way to deliver bad news is to actually avoid using the word “no” if you possibly can. Try instead to start your phrase with an apology, and then follow up with an explanation. Phrases like this may help:

I’m very sorry, but fulfilling that request isn’t possible at this time. Let me check and see what I can do for you.

We’re very sorry, but our current setup does not allow us to ship overseas at this time.

We apologize, but fulfilling that request wouldn’t be fair to our other customers.

Identify Alternative Solutions

Always follow up any apology with an alternative or explanation, and never leave the customer thinking that “no” is the end of the conversation. Either offer an alternative, or ask what else you can do for them. Sometimes being able to help the customer with another matter can help you transition a customer from frustration back to trust.

Remember, just because the customer isn’t right doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat them right. Develop a good script with your team to ease these uncomfortable moments, or download the one we’ve provided to get started today.

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