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How To Say No To Your Customers Without Offending Them

As a small business owner, it’s highly likely that you’re thrown everything at your business as you try to ensure that it’s a success.

You’re likely to have invested more money than you ever thought you would and working 80 hour weeks became the norm long ago.

It’s because of this mentality of devoting so much to the cause that you always try to do your best for your customers and the phrase ‘the customer is always right’ rings true at the front of your mind constantly.

But what about those occasions where the customer isn’t always right?

Yes, it’s tempting to just agree with them and move on, but if you follow that avenue constantly, you’ll find it extremely difficult to develop your small business and it’s therefore important that from as early as possible, you learn how to say no to your customers without offending them.

1. Have set, clear guidelines

When you walk into a garage to buy a car, you know that if the door is open, you’re generally allowed to sit in it and have a look around.

Head to a supermarket and it’s not a good idea to pick up a piece of fruit and try it before you buy.

These rules might sound obvious, but it’s because they’re rules that are recognised globally and instilled into us by major retailers.

With your small business, just because you have your own guidelines, you can’t expect people to know and understand them from the off, so it’s always advisable to write them out and make them as noticeable as possible to your customers.


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2. Always have a reason

While you’re entitled to set your own rules, within reason, on certain aspects of your business, it’s always a fantastic idea to have valid reasons behind every rule or guideline you set.

As great as it is having guidelines that are clear and easily available for customers to read, you’re going to find it difficult to say no to a customer should they ask you why you’ve set a certain rule.

3. Stand your ground. Most of the time.

Just like with any military army, it’s always important to know when you’ve lost the battle and it’s time to retreat as a small business owner.

No matter how wrong the customer may be and how right you know you are, in some instances, it’s OK to brush it all under the carpet, give the customer what they want and move on, as the risk of damage to your brand by standing your ground is far greater than any praise you’d get.

It’s all about judging the scenario at the time – giving in to a customer who wants a refund on a $5 t-shirt because it doesn’t fit is much easier to give in to than a customer who wants to return their $50,000 car because they don’t like it.

Saying no to a customer is something that many small business owners feel they can do easily, but actually struggle to do when they’re first put into that scenario. Practice does make perfect, however and as long as you have guidelines for your customers to follow and reasons behind this, you should find the whole process one that is relatively easy to go through.

This post was originally featured on November 1, 2011. 

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