What’s Your Flavor Of Customer Service?

its-my-way-or-the-highwaySome time ago a friend shared this story with me about a Yelp battle between a customer and a restaurant owner.  The conflict stemmed from the business refusing to allow the customer to order take out because it would not do justice to the presentation of their food.  When the customer did not get their way they of course turned to Yelp to tarnish the restaurant’s reputation.

I was speaking with a friend that works for a local coffee shop and he was talking about their philosophy.  They place the integrity of their product above the demands of the customer.  So if a customer asks for an extra shot of espresso in their drink, they baristas might refuse to grant the request for fear that the quality of the product might be compromised.

When I think about both of these cases, the word BOLD comes to mind.  It’s bold to tell a customer they can’t have what they are asking for.  I’ve written many posts on the importance of saying yes to customers.  After all, they are the ones with the money and the desire to purchase your product.  For the sake of expanding my thinking on the topic, here are three valid reasons you may want to say no to a customer:

1. Compromising product quality and direction- If a custom request from a customer degrades the quality of your product or detracts from the direction of the company, you might want to say no.  Doing so assumes that you have a clear sense of who you are as a company and where you are headed.  In the spirit of not sending a paying customer out the front door with empty hands, I highly recommend thinking long and hard before saying no.

2. You are the expert- Taking the quality point a bit further, there’s plenty of room for “No…but.”  You are the expert on your product.  If you know you can do something better than what the customer is asking for, sell it!  You’d better be able to convince the customer that it’s a win for them, otherwise they are going to feel like you pushed them away.

3. Wow is going to take a looooooooong time- We are infatuated with the wow, aren’t we?  After all, you never know if your next wow will go viral and shoot sales through the roof.  Remember that you are a customer service professional and not a punching bag or a therapist.  If the customer is going to demand the bulk of your day and limitless resources, it had better be worth it.

We ride a fine line in business between saying yes to folks that have money to spend and not selling the soul of our company for a buck.  While I admire people who are so deep in their convictions that they wouldn’t put their masterpiece in a to-go box or pour an extra shot of espresso, it seems like a no brainer to err on the side of doing what the customer asks for.  Just beware that if you stick to your guns, customers may grab their proverbial megaphones and let social media know about it.

If you’re in business or a customer service professional, what do you think?  Is this worth the risk?  Do you take custom orders or is it your way or the highway?  Do share!

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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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