How to Say No to Customers without Sending Them Away for Good


As business owners, one day we come to realize the saying, “The customer is always right,” is not always the case. Of course, it’s important to help your customers the best you can, in any way you know how.

Yet, you also have to keep in mind that you will have to say, “No,” to a customer at some point too—whether they’re asking for something that is not possible or their demands are outrageous and may hurt your company. Customers also tend to become more demanding and feistier during the holiday season as they are dealing with their own stresses of the holidays. As such, the chances the day you will have to find a way to tell them, “No,” without them turning them away forever  is coming soon, are very good.

Here are some steps that will guide you through the “telling-a-customer-no” predicament:

  1. Know Why You’re Saying No

The whole process will go smoother when you have a good reason to say, “No.” Specifically, you need to know your reason and then be clear it’s not just to intentionally make the customer unhappy. However, as a business owner, it is your responsibility to keep your company in mind above the customer.

For instance, if you run a small, local business, you might at some point be faced with friends, family, and locals asking for a large discount. If the discount means you will lose money or not make enough money, it’s fair to keep in mind that your business needs to be making a profit.  Thus, it is okay to say no to discounting your goods or services below where you feel comfortable.

It is easy to fall victim to the pressure of customers’ demands—no matter what they are. Again, to avoid this, know WHY you have made your decision and this will help you stand strong behind your decision. It will also make it easier to articulate your reasons clearly to your customers. Then, you can explain those reasons calmly while iterating that you must stay within your pre-determined lines of operation.

  1. Know When to Tell a Customer No

As stated earlier, it isn’t wrong to tell a customer, “No.” However, knowing when to do it is just as important as knowing why you are doing it.

Some scenarios when you should tell a customer, “No,” include:

  • When you are not able to honor the same request or demand for all of your business’ customers.
  • Your safety has been threatened, whether it be physical or emotional, by the customer.
  • The customer is demanding or requesting something that does not follow the company’s policy.
  1. Empathize with Your Customers 

Customers that have just had their request denied often go through a variety of emotional stages before they reach acceptance. These stages can include avoidance, denial, anxiety, anger, bargaining and sadness. Empathize by understanding that these several phases that customers must go through before reaching acceptance exist. Stay calm and polite while allowing them to pass through each stage.

  1. Use the Power of a Positive, “No.”

It is near impossible to avoid having to say, “No,” to a customer at some point in your career. Thus, when the situation arises, you should be prepared for it. A great maneuver for this is the counter-proposal—saying “No,” to the original request but countering with something you can say, “Yes,” to instead.

In trying this method of appeasement, a key point is to use affirmative words such as definitely, understand, assure, or gladly. For example, “I completely understand why you want but…” or “We want to assure our customers a quality experience, so let me offer you this instead…”

You want to maintain a healthy relationship with your customers, of course. So, when their request must be denied, consider whether you may have something else to offer them that is similar to what they originally wanted and will still make them happy. Offering them something else you can deal with – and that might be a compromise they could be happy with too – can go a long way to satisfaction.