31 Additional Answers
(Co-Founder, Pinpointe On-Demand, Inc.)
The correct adage should be revised to 'The *right* customer is always right. '
A customer relationship is a partnership. Customers that aren't a good fit for your business should be politely referred to a competitor or 'fired' when:
- The customer asks / demands you to perform services that are illegal, immoral or potentially harmful to your brand.
- As @John Prpich notes - a customer expect you to provide services that contradict your organization's core values
- A customer demands services that are blatantly not in their best interest and has been advised otherwise
- The customer is repeatedly unreasonably abusive or demanding toward your support (and/or sales) teams.
Also, if a customer has formed unreasonable expectations that your company can't meet (whether by your fault or their own selective hearing), gracefully bow out.
(Owner/Employee, Talent Blueprint)
When it contradicts your organizations values or places your company at risk, morally or ethically. The old axiom of the customer is always right, really isn't true, at least for me. We should change it to the customer is right, most of the time, but that's just me.
I've had customers ask me to do something that I felt would reflect badly on me and my brand. I could have said yes and taken the money, but I felt that in the long term, it was in my best interest and my clients best interest to say no, this of course wasn't easy.
When it is not good for you business, but you need to make sure you understand the long term impact of the no, and not just the short term impact.
(President, Bellwind Consultants)
I agree totally with John about the ethical considerations but there is also the 'customer from hell' to consider. They are never satisfied, want something for nothing, make ridiculous demands and are otherwise a giant pain. Doing what they want is not customer service it is basically giving in to a form of extortion. Let them be a competitor's headache.
If telling this type of customer no makes him leave, then you are probably better off. If he doesn't leave then chances are you are dealing with the 'demanding 3 year old brat' type of customer and you need to set some ground rules and limits for them.
A friend and I at one time had the same customer for very different services. He believed rules did not apply to him. He constantly wanted more work for free but when he asked me to create a proposal that basically was a thinly veiled attempt at something resembling extortion, I refused to participate. I was informed that I was naive and very stupid about business. I would rather be naive and stupid than complicit any day. I fired him. A couple of months later, my friend, who was doing his website was asked to perform some black hat SEO practices and she refused. Guess what? She was naive and stupid, too. She also fired him and took down the website because he hadn't paid her as promised either.
(Customer-Based Strategist | Insight & Customer Experience Specialist, Dynamica Consulting Group)
When the No is in the best interests of your customer and you go on to explain how your no is actually in the best interests of the customer and he gets it. This has happened to me and I have been thanked for it.
When the No is to uphold your core values and what you stand for. This tends to be called integrity - wholeness - your actions fit your words and your stance in the world.
When the No is 'No I will not accept being taken advantage of any longer' like a well known UK brand known for looking after its customers was being taken advantage of by a small number of customers who exploited the rules - bought stuff, used it, returned it and got refunds again and again!
if I'm not comfortable with him, I say no (possibly, politely. Never burn bridges). Chances are I'll do a poor job, he won't be satisfied and will spread bad words about my professionalism.
(President, Suttle Enterprises LLC)
When a customer wants something that you can’t give him, if you explain the reasons behind your inability to grant his wish and offer an alternative, you can typically get the relationship back on course. Feeling that they’ve been treated fairly is more important to most people than simply being right.
Always deliver a ‘no’ with compassion and clarity. Clients tend to feel a loss of control when they hear ‘no,’ so make sure to present an alternative option. And whatever you do, avoid the phrase ‘I understand how you feel.’ You couldn’t possibly, and it’s very frustrating to hear.
There's a helpful article about this by Libby Kane at Learnvest http://www.learnvest.com/money-tuneup/career/how-to-say-no-at-work/
@JohnPrpich Ditto...and recently helped a client reinforce one of their company's core values. They fired the client due to a non-negotiable, a diversity issue. Saying no to a customer (especially big revenue customer) is tough and it is the right thing to do if serving them is going to cause a conflict with core values the company is actually living.
Another time to walk away from a customer is when the relationship is no longer a win-win for both parties. I hear sales persons and business owners sometimes refer to the hassles a particular customer is and they rationalize keeping them because they might pick up more business later or they'll pick it up on volume, for example.
When you lose the battle, yet WIN the war.
Carol Anne Prosje
(Owner, Pro Website Solutions)
The tactful 'no' is the answer. Always explain the options, develop the options and apply the options. That way you don't lose the customer if they're genuine. A genuine customer will work with you and select one of your options if they trust your business relationship. The options will give your customer an 'out' or a reason not to continue to do business with you if they are being difficult and have already made up their mind on an idea or if they're the type that just is too demanding. That way you part on good terms rather that a flat out 'no' that spreads like wildfire in your business community and would inevitably damage your bottom line and your reputation.
It makes me happy to see how many people have posted answers indicating moral and ethical standards.
(Consultant, Mike Turco)
There's no such thing as being in the business as 'anything for anyone' (or 'anything legal', as it is often put). I've been self employed for forty years. The absolute worse and least profitable jobs I've taken on have those that are too big for one person to handle and those that have required me to go through a substantial learning curve. The best rule, though, is to pass up the 'opportunities' with a bad gut feel.
There's another question that seems to be skirted here: when to fire a customer. Extremely late payers, those people you simply don't like, needy customers who are constantly on the phone, work you don't want to do/won't like doing. Work that is too time consuming. Work you're going to have to learn to do. There's a pretty big list of reasons to say no. In the end, I think everyone has to come up with a list of their own, and use it.
(Director - HR Marketing Communications, NAS Recruitment Communications)
There will be times when clients/customers do not fully understand what they need. In essence, they don't know what they don't know.
My stand on C/S is that my clients depend on me to steer them in the right direction and keep them out of harm's way. I consider it my role to advise them and keep them informed so they better understand the vast array of options that exist in their world, and work with them to help them better understand which of those options would serve them in their best interest.
It isn't a matter of telling them 'no' it's more a case of advising them on other or better options for them to consider. Basically, contingencies in your customer service arsenal will keep you at the forefront of providing great service, allow you to be a pro-active provider rather than reactive provider, and place you into the role of learned advisor and consultant.
(Manager, Customer Servicces, VidSys, Inc.)
(Managing Partner, R. Alliance)
@Kent - excellent point, and one I was just about to make. Especially in a service industry, profit margins are tied to work being done a very specific way for each customer. Like you, I've seen companies do work either essentially for free or at a loss for customers (especially the more high profile ones) because of their 'do whatever the customer wants to get more business from them' mantra.
While I may choose to give away a service as a sales tool, when I do so I make it clear that it is a promotional, one-time thing, done in the interest of illustrating quality of work and furthering a future (profitable) relationship. Working for free because you're giving in to excessive client demands just means that there is more and more business coming in the future that isn't profitable.
And this is a perfectly acceptable reason to say 'no' as well - after all, they are in business to make money just like you are. There's nothing wrong with telling them that you can't do what they are asking because you will lose money doing it. And even if it's not at a total loss, it's still time spent working for them at a discount that your company could be spending working for more profitable customers.
Of course, in order to do this an organization has to know how to determine profitability based on work performed, and it boggles my mind just how many are unable to do that - but that's a totally different topic...
(System Admin, Austin Energy)
Always say no if the customer wants you to do or participate in anything which is unsafe, illegal, immoral, or unethical. While it is not your right to judge others, it is simple to discern what is right for you: it is based on your integrity.
Examples: You are an Electrical Engineer and a client wants you to approve construction which you know violates NEC code. The violation would be dangerous to personnel (unsafe), can be considered illegal (civil and criminal penalties imposed),
immoral because you will be wronging an innocent person with injury, and unethical because you know it is wrong.
I could only reiterate many of the good points already made, so I won't bother adding anecdotes from my own experience. There are many reasons to say 'NO' to a customer, and there are times to 'FIRE' the customer.
I particularly like @Michael A Brown's post and paraphrasing it - 'Don't go to jail for anyone'; 'Don't do anything you can't relate to your children'; 'Don't do anything you'd say to: 'I wouldn't do that again'.'
I teach 100+ fraud classes every year. I also have the only speakers bureau in the U.S. for white collar criminals......www.TheProsAndTheCons.com
. So as you can imagine standard marketing doesn't work. The most important thing you can do for success is to VERY carefully choose who you allow to be client. Don't ever take on a client just because they'll pay you. When a potential client ask for a discount I say, 'I'm sorry you can't afford the best. Would you like the names of some second tier speakers?' Works 90% of the time.
WHY would you want a client who doesn't value what you do? If you allow the 'client from hell' to mistreat you or constantly beat you up on price it's your fault. Want to get ride of them? Easy. Tell them every time they abuse you, ask for a discount or something free you're going to raise the price. They immediately realize their behavior is costly and have to decide whether to pay it.
Gary Zeune, CPA
The Pros & The Cons LLC
World's only speakers bureau for white-collar criminals
10356 Wellington Blvd Suite D
Powell, OH 43065
(Sales/Marketing, B Meyer Bookkeeping Solutions)
I will never violate my set of ethical or moral standards for anyone.
I have a business model in how I performed the task necessary to do my job. The client needs to live up to their side of this obligation by providing me with the documents I need in a timely fashion. If I do not receive the documents in a timely fashion then my job is not getting completed and I cannot provide the client with accurate up to date information that is do vital to their business.
(Senior Strategic Consultant, Facultare)
This is how I answer this question to my sales team.
The most strategic answer is: Do you have your Target Market defined? If the customer is part of your target market, then serve him. If he is not but he is ready to commit a sale, then sell. If neither one of these two scenarios, then SAY NO TO THE CUSTOMER IF...
1. If you cannot sleep knowing you sold to this customer (the moral or ethical question)
2. If their demand is outrageous (you cannot deliver or they clearly cannot afford it)
3. If they're too demanding (Costs more that what they are worth financially). It's OK if you have a service agreement that they are paying for (They are paying more for the incurred costs of serving).
4. If they want a free ride, large discounts, commissions, odd trades. (This is a mix of the first three points, but thought about writing it just for completion).
I don't believe in saying 'No' I do believe in giving options. I agree with everything said to this point but the way I see it, if you have to say 'No' you should be ready to also say 'Here are other solutions...'
Most times customers are more upset at the No without Solutions, not the phrase 'No' itself
When to say 'no'? When the customer wants to buy what you have decided not to sell.
If the item in question would be hazardous in use, and the customer is not fully aware of how hazardous.
If the item in question would be fraudulent (as a document attesting to something invalid). This includes a requirement of full and knowledgable disclosure to the potential customer.
If the item in question requires you to extend your corporate skill set, and you have already decided not to venture there.
All of these _presume_ that you have decided exactly what your company deals in, and what it does not. If you haven't done that, carefully, then you are free to over-commit or misrepresent yourself or sell whatever goods & services - true or false - your marketing, sales, and design people dream up.
John B. Walugembe
(Senior Consultant, ITN Miracle Mobile)
Saying NO to the wrong customer can be crucial for long term survival and growth. The decision might be very difficult, especially where the stakes are high. For example, at our company RDS (on http://www.rdsug.com
" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">www.rdsug.com) we are often under big pressure to offer investors the highest due diligence ratings so that they may easily attract business partners worldwide. However, publishing inaccurate ratings would be disastrous for our company. We cannot risk losing our credibility. So for us to survive, we have to say NO to many, and YES to the few who are willing to abide by the rules of the game.
John B. Walugembe - Tel: +256777078131
Managing Director - RDS
" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">www.rdsug.com
(Chief Shoe Queen, Sole 2 Sole Pte Ltd)
Coming from the retail industry, the saying: 'A customer is always right' constantly gets lots of air time! We pride ourselves in behaving with integrity (we actually tell customers not to purchase our product if it does not fit well) and believe that building a long term relationship based on trust is better for business.
However, when customers bully sales staff, behave badly (e.g. returning goods that have been worn before), I believe as a retailer, we have the right to make a stand for ourselves.This can always be done in a diplomatic way - it's just a question of communicating effectively.
(Developer, Rightway Solution)
Never say NO directly...,
There should be a Power of a positive 'No'.
A general way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
My schedule is booked until the (insert date here :P). How about then?
(CRM Sales Ops Consultant, New Age Sales Techiques)
I came from the IT sales sector where we sold multi-million dollar solutions to large corporations and government. I became clued into some of the schemes prospects would pull...especially when they would call me (yes that's right, they actually CALLED ME for a change)and invite me to meet with them in preparation for an RFP to be issued shortly. Well, at that point it is easy to tell another company is in control of the RFP and the prospect only wanted my participation to complete their process of analysing alternative competitive solutions. I got wise to this game and learned to say 'nope' we won't be responding to this RFP, unless we get the opportunity to do all the research we needed to properly create a response. This would mean your stopping the whole process, pulling your RFP off the market and giving us access to all the people we need to meet with to get a grip on the requirements. In most cases this worked. In others I found we saved a lot of money in not responsing to the RFPs anyway, especially when the RFPs (usually from government who employ a force of RFP career writers) wound up in a canceling not making a buying decision in the end. uuugh!
In my limited experience as a small repair shop owner, I said no to the customer when I would not be able to warrantee my work because of the age or condition of the item to be repaired or when the customer was so convinced that I was trying to rip them off, that I told them that they needed to find a repairman that they trusted. The issue of unethical requests did not arise, but that would also have been grounds for refusing.
I think it is OK to say no to a customer when you know that you are not available. It is OK to say no to a customer when you know that you are not able to assist the customer. It is OK to say no to a customer when you do not have the background knowledge of what the customer is asking you. You can tell a customer no when you know that you are not able to follow thru with what the customer ask you to do.
(Lead Designer, Focus)
After reading all these great answers, I'd like to add this point. It is easier to say no to a customer, knowing that you might lose that customer, if they fall outside the 80/20 rule. Remember that 80% of your sales comes from 20% of your customers. You should be less likely to say no to a loyal customer that a new customer. The impact of losing a customer in the 20% base has a greater impact on your bottom line than a customer outside that group.
One of my favorite customer service sayings is, 'Don't bite the hand that feeds you.'
(Director of Operations, The Language shop)
Here are some situations in which it is appropriate to say 'NO' to a customer/client:
1) When you know the customer/client does not really need the service you are offering and it would only be fair to educate them
2) When your service/product is not the right fit for the customer
3) When you know that you are unable to deliver the quality the customer needs
4) When you know that the client's deadline is unrealistic but you promise to meet it anyway http://www.thelanguageshop.org