How to Handle Impossible Customer Requests

Impossible customerCustomer service is all about treating people well. But what about those times when people make impossible requests, and you feel you have to say “no” to a customer? I have a novel way to handle these situations – by permanently striking the word “no” from your vocabulary!

Saying no to customers is part of our natural survival instincts, because we are naturally programmed to defend our turf. But a simple technique makes it easy to make your customers an ally, even when you can’t do exactly what they want. I call it the ‘can-can’, because it involves focusing on what you can acknowledge and can do for the other person.” Here are some examples:

Before: That isn’t my department.

After: I’m glad you came in. I know exactly the right person to handle this.

Before: You can’t get in to see the doctor for two weeks.

After: I’d like to get you in as soon as possible. We do have an opening on Tuesday the week after next, and if you’d like, I can also let you know if there is a cancellation earlier than that.

Before: We don’t give refunds.

After: I’d love to see you to take home something you like. Even though we don’t take returns, I’ll be glad to give you a discount on another item.

Even in the most extreme situations, you can use the can-can to change the way people react to you. Let’s say, for example, you just towed away someone who is illegally parked, and they aren’t happy about it! Compare these two responses:

Before: “Sorry, you shouldn’t have parked there, and you’ll have to pay a fine.”

After: “I get frustrated when things like this happen to me, so I know how you feel. If you have a credit card, we can charge a small fee and send you on your way right now.”

In almost any customer situation, you can dramatically change your customer’s reactions by changing the mechanics of what you say – which, in turn, will make a real change in your business’s bottom line.

About the Author

Rich Gallagher is a communications skills expert and seminar leader. He is the author of several books including Great Customer Connections and What to Say to a Porcupine.

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