Customer service tip: 5 Tactics for saying “no” with compassion

apologetic office employee

As much as possible, every brand wants to give all their customers a great experience. However, there are times when you really have to say no to their requests.

For call center agents who are trained to always delight the customer, having to say “no” can be difficult. It’s often hard to find the balance between delivering bad news while still optimizing the customer experience. Thus, the art of delivering difficult messages must be part of your customer service training.

Below are some examples of unreasonable customer requests.

1.     Products you don’t offer

confused flabbergasted call center agent

All customers can name at least one feature, product, or service that would improve their experiences, but you can’t always grant their wishes. Often, it’s a question of whether their demands are aligned with your brand image. If customers are asking you to move into an entirely different direction and you’re not prepared to do so, it may be best to decline their requests.

2.     Unfair requests

It’s not uncommon for customers to ask for small favors every now and then. Often, these are harmless requests, but in some cases, you’ll also encounter unreasonable ones. If some of these demands may harm your other clients or employees, you should uphold your company’s policies as a way to protect all your constituents.

3.     Suspicious payment methods

Typically, brands offer various payment methods to make everything convenient for customers. However, they also have to consider whether these payment mechanisms would be good for the company. For instance, if an installment option is off the table and a customer insists on paying in chunks, you need to refuse in order to protect your organization.


Saying no with compassion

Saying no to customers will always be an uncomfortable challenge for all customer service reps. Here are five tips to let down your customers gently without ruining their entire brand experience.


1.     Acknowledge the request.

smiling customer service representative talking to customer on call

When customers are asking for something, show them that you’re interested by listening carefully. Try to understand what the customer wants, and why they want it. Doing so not only helps you assess whether you can grant their request, it also demonstrates that you care about what they have to say.

If you truly have to say no, make sure to clearly explain to the customer why you’re declining their request, but be wary of the tone you use. Don’t be condescending; instead, be empathic and courteous.


2.     Set realistic expectations.

call center agent busy

Sometimes, customers ask for more because you’ve set their expectations too high. That’s why it’s important not to make any promises if you’re not confident you can deliver. Otherwise, you’ll end up disappointing a lot of people.

To avoid this, always be honest with your customers. Let them know that their requests are understandable, but that you can’t make them happen just yet. However, do emphasize that your brand keeps working to improve its performance, products, and services.


3.     Propose an alternative.

smiling customer service agent speaking with customer

Never leave your customers hanging. If you have to decline some of their demands, be prepared to recommend the best possible alternatives. You may not be able to give them exactly what they want, but offering something close to their expectations can instantly improve the situation.


4.     Be professional and tactful.

smiling call center agent

Professionalism and tact can go a long way when it comes to enhancing the customer experience. Even though the customer isn’t always right, there are effective ways to let them know this without embarrassing them.

Additionally, try to reframe your “no” using positive language. Call center agents may use lines such as, “While we don’t currently offer this feature, we’ll be looking closely at how we can incorporate this into our future updates.”


5.     Respond quickly.

standing call center agent holding laptop talking to customer on phone

Responding to customer requests quickly—even if you’ll have to decline them—indicates that you prioritize their needs. Speed is not only a reflection of your competence. It also shows that you’re willing to help customers get the best experience from your services.



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