Entrepreneurs

In Customer Service, ‘No’ Is A Dead End. Training Employees To Respond This Way Instead Is Key.

It makes a powerful difference in your customer service success and operational excellence to train everyone in your company to have a “default of yes, to do their part toward creating a company where your the team is excited to find a way to answer every customer with “yes,” even before you’ve learned what the question is, what they’re about to ask of you. 

That’s why, as a customer service consultant, trainer, and eLearning producer, I work hard to excite my clients about putting this “default of yes” into practice across the board.  

And you should commit to this default of yes yourself: Write it into your customer service standards, your customer service best practices, to never say “no,” instead committing yourself to a goal of getting to yes for every one of your customers in every interaction rather than figuring out ways to say…

…“That’s not my department.”

…“Sadly, we cannot accommodate that request.” (It doesn’t make it any better if you sound like you’re trying out for a Grey Poupon commercial or a part in “The Crown.” Snooty language doesn’t keep a “no” from being a “no.”) 

 …or, and this may be the example I hate the most… 

…”If you call back in the morning, perhaps someone can help you with that.”  (How many things are wrong with this one? You could have as easily said, “Oh, absolutely. That’s something we can help you with. The expert on that is Margaret. She gets in about 9:30 every day but, unfortunately, she’s already gone today. I’m going to put this note right on her desk, and I expect you’ll hear from her before 10 tomorrow morning.”) Isn’t that so much better?!

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Customer Service Training Resource: The MAMA Method of customer service recovery (working with and turning around upset customers) 

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Now, if you can’t offer the particular yes the customer is asking for, or was hoping for, or expecting, or demanding, nonetheless strive to never flat-out tell the customer “no” without offering one or two reasonable alternative yeses that may work for the customer as an alternative solution. 

 Consider this principle: “No” is a dead end. “We can’t do that” is a dead end. But “Here’s what we can do” keeps the channel of communication open, and drives the kind of customer passion and loyalty that will keep your company, on a sustainable basis, in the black. 

How an Iconic Salesperson at Nordstrom Applies the Default of Yes

Look at the lengths that Joanne Hassis, salesperson par excellence at Nordstrom King of Prussia (greater Philadelphia), will go to avoid disappointing her customer (in this case, me!) with a “no.” Not long ago, my favorite short-sleeve shirts, which I had been buying from Nordstrom for years, were discontinued by Nordstrom’s supplier, and, as a result, Joanne was no longer able to sell them to me. 

Rather than just saying, “Sorry, Micah—that’ll be a no,” she found a solution, even though it came from a competing site with private label shirts that Joanne felt would work as a substitute. While this didn’t make any money directly for Joanne or Nordstrom, you can bet that I’m now more faithful than ever about buying the rest of my wardrobe from Joanne—and about recommending her services to others as well. (As, in fact, I’ve done here.)

Important exceptions to the Default of Yes: Health, Privacy, Security, Safety

Before I leave you, I want to stress that there is a set of scenarios where you shouldn’t even be trying to get to yes. This is when the request has risky safety, health, or security implications.

So, please don’t misapply this article’s advice in any of the following ways—

 “We don’t mind if you move your chair in front of that marked emergency exit.”

“Sure, I’ll bypass our passcode verification procedures and get you into your account, since you’ve forgotten your password.” “Feel free to keep drinking at our bar far beyond the point of sobriety.”

“Yeah, that’s fine if you prop open our swimming pool safety gate to make load-in and load-out easier for your kid’s birthday party.”

 “I’ll be happy to drive you to the airport even though I’ve had a few end-of-day drinks already.”

—and so forth.

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