Suppose your business is making custom widgets. You make them to order, to the customer’s specification. You do this because you want to be nice, and you want to make money, and making whatever customers want seems like the best way to do both.
But now you’re starting to get overloaded with work. You’re turning down customers or telling them you’ll get back to them in six months. And you’re wondering if there’s a better way.
There is, but it’s not obvious. As an entrepreneur, your first instinct when overloaded with work is probably to hire more people and buy more equipment. That will help up to a point, but only if your real problem is that you have more customers than you can handle right now. If your problem is that most of your customers want things that take longer than they realize or cost more than they are willing to pay, hiring more employees won’t help much.
If your widget business has a real problem, it will still have it after you hire ten more employees and build a bigger factory. The only solution then is for someone high up in the company to say no to some of those customers. But who?
The biggest difference between companies that make stuff and companies that provide services is how they say no. If you make dresses, you are always going to have to reject some customers. But if you’re a dress manufacturer, you can say no to those customers politely but firmly. You don’t have to worry about them throwing themselves out of their office windows, or spreading malicious rumors about your company on the Internet.
Providing a service, however, means dealing with people directly; and that means some of them will take it personally when you say no. As a result, most service companies avoid saying no at all costs, even if doing so risks making the whole company unprofitable. The ideal situation for any company is to be able to say yes only to profitable customers.
If you want to be successful in business, you can’t afford to be a people pleaser. That may sound harsh, but it’s true. If you’re constantly worried about keeping your customers happy, then you’re either going to have to compromise the quality of your product and service or the bottom line of your company?
So, instead of trying to keep every customer happy by saying yes to every request, consider saying no when the situation calls for it. The following tips will help you do that without losing customers or damaging your reputation.
- Know when it’s appropriate to say no. You don’t want to turn away a customer over something small, but sometimes you’ll need to say no in order to protect your business and its reputation. If a customer wants something that’s blatantly unethical or that would reduce the quality of your product or service, then saying no is in order.
- Have a policy in place and stick with it. People are more willing to accept no if they know ahead of time what they can expect from your company. If you have policies that govern what kind of things you will and won’t do for customers, then all you have to do is refer them back to those policies when they ask for something beyond what you’re willing.
How to Say No to Customers: A 5 Step Guide
It’s a difficult conversation to have, but sometimes you have to say no to customers. I’m not talking about the kind of “no” that comes with a long explanation, or the “no” you deliver with thinly veiled frustration. I’m talking about the rare “no” that’s delivered so well your customer feels heard, respected and even supported. Here’s how to do it:
- Acknowledge their request and validate their feelings
The first thing you need to do is acknowledge their request, and let them know that you’re happy to help. You want to get them into a positive mindset so they’ll be more receptive to your decision.
For example: “I understand you’d like us to add a new feature. I’m sure that would be useful for your team, but it’s not currently on our roadmap.”
- Provide context
Next, you need to provide some context as to why this isn’t the right time for their request — and why it won’t be happening any time soon.
Include details such as your priorities, plans, or product vision that necessitate saying no. This will help them understand the reasoning behind the rejection, and it may even help them realize that you already have something better in mind for them.
For example: “We plan to redesign our navigation in the next few months because data shows that customers can’t find what they need when they sign up for an account with us. While building new features is important, we need to focus on improving the areas of our product that people are.
Sometimes things go wrong, even when you’ve done your best. But we spend so much energy avoiding saying sorry that it can seem like an admission of fault. The reality is that often the customer just wants to know that you care about how they feel.
Saying sorry doesn’t mean that you are taking responsibility for something that isn’t your fault, it just means that you care about how the customer feels.
When a customer is upset or disappointed, empathy can be a powerful tool in helping them to calm down and start to see things from your point of view, without making them feel like you are patronizing or condescending towards them.
Empathy is different from sympathy because it involves putting yourself in their shoes and seeing things from their perspective rather than assuming you know how they feel and why.
- We never forget how we communicate
This is why we’re careful to optimise not just the product itself but also how we talk about it and what we say. We take a lot of time crafting every sentence in our product descriptions, every phrase in our emails and every word on this blog.
We do this because we know how much words matter and how much they can influence a person’s perception and experience of your brand. And yet, for some reason, when it comes to saying no to customers there seems to be an exception to the rule – a general disregard for the importance of language and communication. Visit RsiePath for more information.
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