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Part of good customer service is knowing how to say no to a customer without being a jerk.

How to Say No Successfully

I needed to refill a prescription. I had recently changed to a different physician who wanted to see me before authorizing the refill. The problem was that her office didn’t tell me that she wanted to see me. My pharmacy sent three requests for refill authorization, but heard nothing from my doctor’s office. Finally, I called to see what the problem was. That’s when I found out that she wanted to see me before authorizing the refill. That was after two weeks of no communication from her office. The first available appointment was the next day. I had a conflict and couldn’t make it. The next appointment wasn’t for two weeks and I’d already run out of the prescription. The receptionist, although friendly, told me there was nothing she could do to help. I’d either have to change my schedule and come in the next day or go without the prescription for two weeks until the appointment.

When I encounter situations like this, one of my favorite things to do is ask the question, “What would you do if you were in my situation?” The receptionist: “I don’t know.” Arghhhhh! Me: “Perhaps the doctor could write a short-term prescription that would cover me until I’m able to come in for an appointment.” The receptionist: “Let me check with her and call you back.” About a half hour later, she called back to say the doctor had written a short-term prescription for me. What a debacle. In my corporate training sessions and keynote speeches, I often talk about the importance of having empathy for the customer. In this case, the receptionist didn’t put herself in her customer’s position and didn’t consider that there might be viable alternatives to simply saying no. If she would have taken a moment to consider alternatives, she could have avoided several minutes of stressful conversation for both of us.

Here’s a link to another story about how to say no to a customer.

Empathy is a Big Part of How to Say No

There are times when it’s necessary to say no to a customer. I don’t agree with people who say you should never say no to a customer. The key is in how to say no. We need to offer alternatives. If you’re not sure what alternatives are available, tell the customer you need to do some research to see what the options are. Put yourself in your customer’s position. What would you want if you were in a similar situation? When you have to say no, empathize with the customer. Imagine how you would feel if the tables were turned. Think about how you might be able to offer alternatives that could solve the customer’s issue. What can you say or do to make your customer feel like you care?

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