An entertaining song from the musical Oklahoma regales the trials and tribulations of a love struck girl who can’t refuse amorous advances.  She’s the girl who “cain’t say no”.

Companies who want to provide an exceptional customer experience face a similar dilemma.  It is far easier to say “yes” and acquiesce than to refuse a customer’s request.  But sometimes you should say no and sometimes rejection is the best thing for a customer relationship.  When you do, here are some tips:

  1. Be Brief – Unlike fine wine, bad news does NOT improve with time.  Your customers are trying to run a business.  Every day you delay is a day the customer is not considering other possible solutions – after all, they’re hopeful you’ll deliver.  If you have to provide a negative response do so as fast as you can.
  2. Be Factual – If you value your customers you owe it to them to analyze the request.  They deserve a full response with rationale.  The rationale could be that the solution isn’t strategic to your business or that not enough customers have the same request or that you have other higher priorities.
  3. Provide Alternatives – By staying solution focused and keeping the customers’ interests at the center of your response, you’re free to investigate other solutions.  Customers may remember you said no, but they will remember that you went the extra mile to help them solve a problem.

When all is said and done your customers will have one of two impressions of your brand and company.  Which would you prefer?

  • “I didn’t like the answer, but they were honest.”
  • “I liked the answer but they didn’t meet their commitment.”

The pivot point is that refusing your customer may cost you a deal but win a lifelong customer.  In other words, it’s worth it to lose the battle to win the war.  Next time your customer asks for the impossible, consider whether or not you “orta say nix.”

Customer Experience – Oklahoma Style
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