How to Tell a Customer No: A Customer Service Skill


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Having to say “no” to a customer can be a difficult pill to swallow at times, especially when you empathize with the customer’s problem or issue, and you would like to say “yes”, but company policy does not permit it.

For example, if a consumer calls about a product failure in Year 3 for a product covered by a 1-year warranty, you may have to say “no” to a customer’s request (or demand) for a free replacement.

The most effective technique to use in situations like this one is to redirect the conversation as quickly as possible to what you can do, as opposed to dwelling on what you can’t do.

In our example, rather than keeping the conversation stuck on the warranty expiration issue, focus instead on the various available options for the customer and leading them to the best possible outcome for that customer from the available choices. Maybe you can assist them in arranging for a repair, or perhaps you can secure a discount for them on the purchase of a newer model. Much depends on the particular product, the relative cost and how much flexibility the company builds into its policies.

Regardless, the punch line is this: Always focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jack Dempsey
Jack Dempsey is the Chief Executive Officer of Pretium Solutions. Jack directs Pretium's revolutionary customer loyalty program, the Golden Touchpoint™, which is in active use in approximately 50 countries and over two dozen languages. Pretium Solutions is a premier provider of cutting-edge, sustainable and globally-recognized customer experience management solutions and customer service, call center and sales training, consulting and leadership programs.


  1. Jack,

    Good topic to tackle and I like your recommended solution. We run into this a good bit with our pharmaceutical clients. Pharma companies are not able to share information outside of the package insert with patients. It frustrates highly capable agents to not be able to offer more information. Clients refer patient/callers back to their physician which is the best solution.

    I enjoy your posts and thanks for sharing your insights.



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