When (and how) to say no.

So yesterday I introduced a topic on Service Untitled that is pretty popular among companies – when to say no to a customer. That is, when to tell them that whatever they are asking for is not within the typical realms of the service you offer and that you will be unable to help them.

I am sure I have directly conflicted what I just said in the past. I don’t advise companies to tell their customers no, but instead work with them to come up with an alternative solution. Saying no is a very negative thing and can really aggravate customers. However, “when to come up with an alternative solution” does not make the best post title and isn’t quite as straight forward as saying no.

When to say no come up with alternative solutions
Essentially, you should say no when you don’t have the resources to meet the request and/or meeting the request is not within the bounds of the customer service you offer. Retail stores won’t re-arrange your closest for you – it isn’t within the bounds of the customer service they offer. Computer companies won’t guide you through how to use Windows – they help with specific problems. These are examples of requests that the company would have to say no to.

Or, they can come up with an alternative solution. Examples of alternative solutions for the above mentioned examples would be: the store offering a personal helper service that would come to your house and help you with things like that or the computer companies offering a service to train you how to use your computer. These are examples of alternative solutions – they usually cost extra, but are available to customers who want/need such services.

Examples of alternative solutions.
The lady from the company I spoke to told me about how she would frequently have customers ask the company to teach them how to use the software. This isn’t something that was within the bounds of their normal customer service. She didn’t like saying no, but couldn’t have her staff spend 45 minutes on the phone with the customers for each situation. They have lots of tutorials, offer webinars, and a large knowledge base, but couldn’t train each customer.

Here are some things I suggested:

  • Group some of the guides into a “getting started” category that explains how to use the software. Their site wasn’t abundantly clear about what documentation new customers should read.
  • Offer professional training. Charge customers who want to be taught how to use the software. Explain to them that a professional training course is available for $40/hour (or whatever) and that the representative will be more than happy to teach them how to use the software in that time.
  • Video tutorials. Though I believe the company already has them, customers really like video tutorials. There are plenty of companies out there that make great ones for fairly reasonable prices. Or, if you have the software, the time, and someone who can use it, make your own.
  • Make alternative options clear. Include information about alternative options, upgraded service plans, etc. on your web site and support section. If customers are aware of the options before they pick up the phone, it can be quite helpful.

These are just some of the options provide companies can consider instead of saying no. Even if the service is not used frequently, it is there and can help a customer out. It doesn’t cost much to list the service on the addon page and if it helps customers, it is definitely worth it.

I will cover remote employees in more detail next week. Have a great weekend!

3 Responses to “When (and how) to say no.”

  1. Service Untitled » Some quick posts. - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    May 23, 07 at 12:05 pm

    […] All About No: When and How to Say itIn looking at stats, I notice a lot of people are curious about when and how to say no. Luckily, I wrote about that back in February of this year. Here is the link about when and how to say no. The main point is to come up with alternative solutions instead of flat out saying no. […]

  2. Service Untitled » Turning down business. - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    Jul 13, 07 at 2:31 pm

    […] When (and how) to say no. Technorati tags: Entrepreneur, Customer Service, Turning Down Business, Business « Webmail.us Customer Service   […]

  3. Service Untitled » Let customers down gracefully. - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    Jul 20, 08 at 1:28 am

    […] in mind, it is important to train employees to let customers down gracefully. The answer should never stop at no. And when you do have to say no, have plenty to say right after it. Building a culture that […]