How to Say No to a Customer Without Ruining Your Relationship

May 18th, 2017 | Jylian Russell | Communication
How to Say No to A Customer Without Ruining Your Relationship

Nobody likes being told no. A ‘no’ means rejection. A ‘no’ means we don’t get what we want. Hearing ‘no’ as a kid was tantamount to the end of life, and there’s a good chance most of us still hate hearing it as adults.

For support agents, saying ‘no’ to customers is an unavoidable part of business — even if doing it is downright awkward. But no matter how tough these types of conversations are, a ‘no’ can actually reveal a lot of hidden opportunities to bring you closer to your customers through product education and more.

So how do you say no to customers without ruining your relationship? Here are 5 ways to turn those ‘no’s’ into opportunities to keep your customers happy.

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  1. Hear Them Out

    Think about any time you’ve been upset in your life. It’s likely that in many cases you simply wanted your antagonist to hear you out and acknowledge why you’re upset.

    Over on live chat, upset customers want the same — they want to know that their frustrations are being heard. Using empathetic language is a great way to achieve this. Expressions like “I understand where you’re coming from” can simply but powerfully convey that you’re truly appreciating your customer’s pain-points. Further, by listening closely, you’ll be able to uncover why they want what they’re asking for — an important insight that will help you figure out alternative solutions later.

    Pro tip: As your customer relays their issue, be sure to offer an apology for the situation (regardless of the cause) and tell them you’re here to find a solution for them. Using words like ‘we’ can also convey that you’ll solve the problem together as a team.

    Try phrases like:

    I’m so sorry to hear about ## issue. Let’s see what we can do to solve this.

    A simple ‘sorry’ can do wonders to neutralize a customer’s anger and help you move together towards a mutual solution.

  2. Explain Why You Can’t

    After the customer has explained their issue, it’s important to clearly convey why you can’t deliver on their request. By outlining your company’s rationale for a certain product or service choice, you’re giving your customer a logical and informed insight which will help them better understand your decision – and not that you’re simply and stubbornly ignoring them.

    Pro tip: Let your customer know that their feedback is very important and that you’ll be passing along their request to your design or sales team. By doing so, you’ll show your customer that you consider them your partner in success and value their insights.

    Try typing something like:

    Thanks for the suggestion. Feedback from our customers is really important to us and I’ll be sure to pass this along to our team.
  3. Say No Without Saying No (refuse, politely!)

    Using the word ‘no’ immediately creates barriers and places a negative tone on the conversation – exactly the opposite of what you want to achieve on live chat. But it is possible to say no without actually uttering the word. Instead of flat out saying “no” try phrases like:

    That’s a great point, but unfortunately our system isn’t set up to do that just yet.
    While we’re not able to deliver that service yet we really appreciate your ideas and I’ll be sure to pass them along to our product team.
    Pro tip: When giving a customer a polite refusal, it’s important to deliver your responses with confidence. Assertiveness, delivered politely, will give your customers a much better understanding of your rationale and a good base to move forward from — wishy-washy explanations, on the other hand, could suggest that your stance isn’t solid and that there’s bargaining room.
  4. Find an Alternate Solution

    No matter what, you want to keep your customers happy. And even if you can’t 100% deliver on their request, you can find opportunities to make them smile by finding workarounds — such as finding a close alternate to what they’re after. If say you’re out of stock on a specific t-shirt colour the customer is looking for, you can try offering them a similar shirt in another colour, or in a close style that’s offered in their preferred colour. Even if they don’t decide to go for the alternate, they’ll likely be grateful for your efforts to keep them smiling. Throughout the chat, approach your customers as partners in your path to a new solution. Solicit their opinion and ask questions to uncover potential alternates you could use to negotiate a new solution.

    A few phrases that could work here include:

    I’ve found a few more options here that might work for you.
    I’ve found an option similar to your original choice. How do you feel about this one?
    Can you let me know what you liked most about your original choice and I’ll see if I can find a close alternate here.
    Pro tip: Be sure to explore all solution avenues, starting within your own team. When an obvious solution isn’t available to you try asking colleagues how they’d handle similar situations. Their insights could help reveal solutions you might not have thought of.
  5. Sign Off on a Positive Note

    Closings matter. Whatever the outcome, make sure you say goodbye to your customer on a high-note. Use your closing to remind your customer how much you appreciate their business and feedback.

    Thanks once again for reaching out today. We really appreciate your business and please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you need any further help.
    Before we sign off here I just wanted to say thanks for reaching out today and for choosing our business.

Conclusion

Even though it can be awkward, saying ‘no’ can be awkward, doing so can also give the opportunity to bring you closer to your customers. Learn to say ‘no’ the right way by weaving the tips above into your next ‘no’ scenario on live chat.

To learn more about empathizing with your customers over live chat, be sure to check out our blog post, Empathy vs. Sympathy: The Secret to Delivering Exceptional Customer Service.

75 Live Chat Scripts

[Free Download] 75 Live Chat Scripts That Don’t Make Your Agents Sound Like Robots

Quality scripts can be an amazing tool to save time, enhance quality and communicate your brand voice. In this guide, we’ll lay out some scripts which are time-saving while sounding human, engaged, and most importantly, not robotic.

Download Now

About 

Jylian is an inquisitive and energetic copywriter based in Canada and regularly works with teams across Europe, APAC, and the US. An experienced SaaS writer, she specializes in social media, fintech, and customer service content.

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