Absolutely Awesome Alternatives To Saying NO To Your Customers

10211089-corvette-dinerBy now we’ve set some ground rules on this blog, none more important than avoiding the word NO at all costs when working with customers.  That includes I can’t, I won’t, we don’t, unfortunately and any other negative you can possibly think of.  When you employ those forbidden words just picture a fifty foot stone wall appearing out of no where and separating you and your customer.

The question remains, what in the world am I supposed to say if a customer is asking for something we don’t have or can’t do?  Great question.  My son’s birthday was this weekend and this year we opted for a smallish family celebration at a favorite restaurant, Corvette Diner here in San Diego.  This 50s diner boasts loud music, great food, sassy waitresses and a fantastic arcade.  It’s a terrible place to hold a business meeting but a fantastic place for families and kids.

I called ahead of time to make a reservation for twelve and heard one of the more creative answers I’ve ever heard.  Upon asking if I could make a reservation, the kind lady on the other end of the line responded saying “Actually, we’re walk in specialists!  Come on in and we’ll seat you as quickly as we can.”

She basically told me they don’t take reservations without ever saying the word NO.  Oh, she’s good.  Had she said “NO” I very well might have called another restaurant I knew would take reservations.  Her response drew me in as a customer and ensured that I had no reason to go somewhere else.

As customer service professionals, this is a great reminder to dust of some of your FAQs that say “Unfortunately, we cannot do that” and begin placing a positive spin on them.  In the same way, coach your customer service staff to suggest viable alternatives rather than saying “NO.”  Don’t give your customers any reason to go elsewhere.  With a little creativity, they won’t want to!

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Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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