What’s Your Flavor Of Customer Service?


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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!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jeremy Watkin
Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Support and CX at NumberBarn. He has more than 20 years of experience as a contact center professional leading highly engaged customer service teams. Jeremy is frequently recognized as a thought leader for his writing and speaking on a variety of topics including quality management, outsourcing, customer experience, contact center technology, and more. When not working he's spending quality time with his wife Alicia and their three boys, running with his dog, or dreaming of native trout rising for a size 16 elk hair caddis.


  1. I have a big problem with a company telling me what I like. Sure, if I want to buy a can of coke, they’re not going to paint the can blue because that’s what I like. But if I want to buy a steak from you and I do NOT like my steak rare, who are you to tell me it tastes better rare? I’m pretty sure I know what I like better than you.

    Sometimes, brands need to get over themselves. The world is a many splendored thing, and for me to choose your product as my splendored thing is the point. Let me have it my way. Or I’ll go to Burger King.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Annie! I totally agree. Isn’t that the customer-centric way to operate?


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