The art of saying ‘no’ to customers
It’s the never-ending internal conflict: although you realize customer is always king and they except to hear the yes answer to all their requests, you know that isn’t always possible. What’s more, in the age of social media and online reviews, fulfilling the customer’s needs and avoiding disappointment is more important than ever. Did you know that bad experiences are three times more likely to be shared than positive ones? So how do you say no without jeopardizing your business relationship with your client?
Understand the denial mechanism
Research shows there are 3 types of reactions when a child is told ‘no’. These 3 types don’t differ much when we are shopping online:
1. Accept ‘no’ as the answer
Accepting the refusal and forgetting about it is the first type, but let’s be honest here: who ever does that?
2. Ask the other parent / supervisor
When a child is told ‘no’ by its mother, asking the father is one way he or she tries to get what he or she wants. When extrapolated to customer service, these are the customers demanding to talk to your supervisor or hanging up in order to call back and talk to another customer service representative.
3. Cry, scream and kick
The last type of reaction is the most emotional one: expressing anger, arguing with the customer service representative and threatening to move to your competitor. These are the clients who post negative reviews online.
Learn how to say ‘no’ without actually saying it
Understanding these three types of reactions and acting upon them in the right way is what we will be doing in this step.
1. Positive approach
Saying ‘no’ without actually saying the word is a form of art, one that you can definitely learn how to practice. Saying the word ‘no’ implies you don’t want to help the customer, which isn’t your goal of course. Your goal is not to give in to the customer’s wishes, without losing his loyalty. So, when a customer says he or she will only place an order if you pay the delivery costs, you don’t tell him or her you can’t make an exception, better is to say: “Sure, if you add one more item to your order the delivery costs are on us.” Or “If you subscribe to our newsletter, you’ll be the first to hear when we offer free shipping.”
Saying ‘no’ without actually saying the word is a form of art, one that you can definitely learn how to practice.
2. Provide alternative solutions
Although a customer doesn’t like to hear ‘no’ as an answer, he or she will definitely appreciate the effort of you searching for alternative solutions. Instead of just letting your customer know a shirt isn’t available anymore in his or her size, you may offer to write down his or her email address to send an email as soon as it is back in stock. Another option would be to offer to check if the particular item is still available in a boutique near him or her.
Different customers ask for different approaches. It’s your job as a customer service representative to show empathy by offering the options that suit your client’s preferences.
3. Tailor fit advice
As you already understood from step one, different customers ask for different approaches. It’s your job as a customer service representative to show empathy by offering the options that suit your client’s preferences. You can help a customer that wants to return an online order but asks you how, in three different ways: sending them the link to the return form via email, talking him or her through the entire process or doing it for them. Which option suits your client best, depends on him or her, what type of customer he or she is.
4. Stress your efforts, not the result
The customer is king and making him or her feel that way is in the details. Don’t stress your customer’s mistake or problem, but focus on the efforts and time you put into helping him or her. Turning down a client who wants to return a parcel after the acceptable date, is one of these situations that ask for a diplomatic approach. Telling you understand him or her, but after talking to your supervisor, you won’t be able to fulfill his or her request due to the company policy sounds much better than just saying it isn’t possible.
Unfortunately, there isn’t one magic method to say ‘no’ to your clients. But you will go a long way by learning how to master the skill by doing your best to solve the issue, offering alternatives that work for him or her and showing you care.
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