In a situation where a customer has requested a service, a modification, or an upgrade that your company is unable to provide, saying “no” is unavoidable.
All of us take denial very seriously and it can actually evoke a childlike response. We threaten to leave, write about it on social media, and share our bad experience with friends & family. According to the Accenture Global Customer Satisfaction Report 2008, the price is not the main reason for customer churn. It is actually due to the overall poor quality of customer service.
However, through effective communication, you can turn this situation into a learning experience that can actually reinforce your good relationship with your customers and have them coming back and giving you more opportunities to serve them.
Let us explore a few ways to handle this unpleasant task without it taking a toll on your relationship with your customers.
Respond with a positive statement
Instead of an outright “No!” choose a positive statement to communicate the same. An outright no would mean that you are not interested in offering help. By using positive statements, you might be able to salvage the situation to a certain extent. For instance, instead of “No, we don’t have the feature you are requesting at the moment” say things such as “I can see how this feature will be useful, but unfortunately we don’t offer it at the moment. Thank you for your suggestion though! Most of our feature modifications are introduced following suggestions and ideas from our customers such as you.” Hence, even though the customer is likely to be unhappy with the fact that you do not offer a said feature, you have left him/her on a positive note.
Say “NO” Right Away
Avoid beating around the bush and just say it. Being the bearer of the bad news is not a pleasant experience, but it is best done right away. This is better than doing it after a long conversation where you are trying to give them hope and fix something that you probably cannot.
Suggest Other resources and alternatives
If the customer demands a feature or product that you don’t offer, find the closest alternative for them, even if it means pointing them to another company that does. Know your market well and be aware of what your competitors offer that you don’t. Contrary to common belief, you will not lose this customer to your competitor. This will encourage your customer to actually return to you in future with another requirement owing to your ability to offer good customer service.
On the other hand, an alternative is likely to exist in your existing product line. For instance, there might be another product offered by your company other than the one that your customer is using at the moment, which is likely to fulfill their requirement. As a customer service rep, sound knowledge about your company’s product offerings and their features as well as your proactivity can go a long way in turning things around.
Listen carefully to your customers
Instead of adopting a defensive approach, be interested in listening to your customers and offer empathy. It is indeed unfortunate that you are unable to resolve their issue. However, when your customers feel they are being listened to and that you are actually trying to help, this will minimize their disappointment. According to McKinsey, 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.
Also, listening carefully can turn into a learning experience for you. Your customer has probably been in business longer than you and knows the market better. You can gain the opportunity to learn about a new product or feature trending in the market and consider including it in your product offerings.
Offer a Dedicated Explanation
At times, it is likely that your customer does not understand your product and its functionalities as well as you do. In this case, they are likely to need a detailed explanation. For example, you are in the software business and your customer is finding it difficult to implement your product on their system or website. You can approach this in two ways:
- Tell them that there is nothing wrong with your product and that they have probably not followed the instructions on the tutorial properly and that something might be wrong with their website
- Offer to follow them through the instructions in the tutorial step-by-step. If this doesn’t work, tell them that you will solicit the help of a colleague or the support team to suggest a different way of doing it and get back to them
By getting involved, you can meet at least a part of a customer’s requirement if not whole. After all, happy customers who get their issue resolve to tell about 4-6 people about their experience, according to White House Office of Consumer Affair.
Treat every “no” as the first “no” of the day
On some days, you may have said no far too many times and the experience is very draining. However, for the customer, it is the first time he is hearing “no” in the day. Hence, each time you say it, treat it like the first no of the day and approach the issue with as much determination as you did during the first instance. You can make a note of a few of your best answers that day and use those differently throughout the day.
Avoid Overcompensation and being Extremely Apologetic
Do not let your customers push you around. It is not possible for you to fulfill 100% of your customers’ requirements at all times. Also, you need not offer compensation in the form of freebies. Extreme apologies are not necessary either. After all, it is not the end of the world for you or your customer.
A survey by Dimensional Research that consisted of over 1,000 people who have experienced customer service of mid-sized companies found that 62% of B2B and 42% of B2C customers purchased more after a good experience, whereas 66% and 52% respectively stopped making purchases after a bad experience. Hence, it is important to say no without actually saying no.