“But the client doesn’t have the benefit of that history. To them, it can seem dismissive – like we didn’t take them seriously or give them the time of day.”
3 Ways to Say “No” To Clients Without Alienating Them
What seems like ages ago now, I used to be the Corporate Culture Officer of a mid-sized organization in California. My job was to craft and grow a corporate culture around our identity. Our Mission was simple: “Live Big” understood as “live well.” I’m happy to say we were pretty successful – remarkably so. To have both your employees and your clients love you is a feat in any industry. It’s a nirvana many people never experience in the workplace.
While some organizations have troubling problems with their employees, our problems (more often than not) were much more quaint. All of our employees were so keen on making clients happy, that they frequently said “yes” when the answer was actually “no.” Small business owners often have the same problem when they’re first starting out. You don’t have to have 100 employees for this to be a problem that can quickly unravel. If we don’t follow our own policies how can we expect other people to? If not dealt with appropriately, it will eventually degrade your identity. In short, if you break your own policies it can do more than run you ragged. It can jeopardize your business.
Immediate Is Too Soon
Just because we know the answer is “no” doesn’t mean we have to tell the client “no” right off the bat. We may have already encountered the same situation many times before and spent countless hours coming to our “no” conclusion. But the client doesn’t have the benefit of that history. To them, it can seem dismissive – like we didn’t take them seriously or give them the time of day.
When a client presents a problem to us – they’ve usually given it some thought. They’re likewise (more often than not) emotionally invested in a pre-determined outcome. When a client asks you something and the answer is “no” give it time. Instead of saying “no” right away listen to them and respond accordingly. For example: “I see your concern. I would have to see if there’s a way we could make that work. Let me take a look at that and get back to you.”
That communicates empathy with the client. It says you’ve heard their concern and it’s important enough that you’re going to give it your consideration. Believe it or not, it will actually help you improve customer service. If something happens once – that’s one thing. Oftentimes you’ll find different clients will ask you for the same thing. This will give you time and space to truly consider whether there is merit to changing your policies.
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