Customer Experience News & Trends

How to effectively say ‘no’ to customer demands

Most realize that saying “no” to a customer request can be risky. 

For example, the perceived risks associated with saying “no” include:

  • You won’t make the sale or close the deal.
  • Prospects and customers won’t like you.
  • You might lose a customer.

Saying ‘yes’

On the other hand, saying “yes” when you should say “no” may result in some negative consequences, including:

  • Your work suffers and you can’t do everything in a high quality way.
  • Your relationships with other customers suffer because they feel they’re being treated unfairly.
  • You become a people pleaser, caving in to every demand that’s made of you.
  • You may violate company policy.

The POWER Approach

The POWER Approach can help you make the right “yes” or “no” decisions. For each question or request, determine:

  • P — What is the purpose of the request? Does it support your values, goals and priorities? If the request does not mesh with your purpose, say “no.”
  • Option — Do you have the necessary authority to say “yes?” Can you meet the request successfully without undue stress?
  • Window — Try to establish a specific deadline for the completion of the request. Is the deadline firm or flexible? If you can’t meet the request in the time allowed it might be a good idea to say no.
  • Emotions — You probably have some kind of gut reaction to a request. This is your emotional response. Trust it and follow your instincts. If you feel uneasy about the request, it might be a good idea to say “no.”
  • R — What are the repercussions of saying “yes” versus saying “no?” Try to consider everything including the decision’s impact on other customers.

Find a balance

It’s important not to say either “no” or “yes” all the time. Either extreme can get you in to trouble with customers or your boss. Being indecisive and waffling is nearly as bad. Try to get the information you need, analyze the data, tune into your gut instinct and make an educated choice about whether it is in your best interest to say “yes” or “no.”

Making ‘no’ work

When you decide to say “no,” try to convey your message clearly, without incurring negative consequences by:

  • Using tact and graciousness, but also being firm.
  • Using good word choices that leave no room for doubt or misinterpretation.
  • Asking direct and specific questions, then applying the POWER evaluation.
  • Realizing that saying “no” is the right thing to do if you can’t follow through on a “yes.”
  • When you have to say “no,” make sure the words you use are not open to misinterpretation. Some words may be interpreted as “maybe” or “not at this time.” Try to use body language, a tone of voice or a facial expression that support, not contradict, your “no.”

Adapted from: No! by Jane Kemp, founder and owner of Meeting & Management Essentials, a consulting firm. She is also a trainer and meeting facilitator.

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