How to say
‘no’ and still
keep the
e have spent a lot of time looking at ways to please
customers; saying yes to them definitely helps to keep
them on the correct side of the emotional scale. On
the whole, everyone hates being told ‘no’; from a very early age
we are programmed not to want to hear it. Our parents told us
‘no’ all the time and it usually meant we couldn’t have some-
thing delicious or do something we thought was fun, so it has a
negative feeling to it from the start.
We associate ‘no’ with disappoint-
ment or with letting someone down.
For those of us who want to please,
saying no can also be really difficult.
Probably the last time I felt really
comfortable saying ‘no’ was when I was two years old; I am
driven by pleasing people and it goes against every bone in my
body to say this simple two-letter word.
Of course, it is better to say ‘yes’ to customers and to avoid the
hard ‘no’ because there are better ways to tell a customer you
can’t help them than just saying an outright no it certainly
isn’t up there with the most memorable positive wow moment.
However, we can take this too far if we never turn down a
customer. For example, sometimes we need to say no when
something is not in the best interest of the customer. I remember
taking my daughter and her friend to Alton Towers, and my
daughter was just at the age where she wanted to go on all the
we associate ‘no’ with
disappointment or with
letting someone down
132 brilliant customer service
scary rides, but she was small for her age. Her friend, although
the same age, was a couple of inches taller. My daughter, ever
resourceful, put on a pair of wedge heels which gave her a couple
of inches of height. At the first roller coaster she was so excited,
eyes shining, flushed with excitement. They both approached the
measurement stick and her friend was fine and was passed to go
on the ride. My daughter, however, even with her extra inches
was just below the scale. The assistant told her no very nicely,
although she begged the assistant to let her on. I have to say my
daughter is one of the most persuasive people I have ever met
but the assistant stuck firmly to a gentle no, explaining how the
ride was extremely dangerous if you weren’t the right height. I
hate seeing my children disappointed but I had so much respect
for the assistant’s concern for my daughter’s feelings, but more
importantly for her safety. So much so that I have always felt
good about taking my children to Alton Towers and now my
daughter is 19, she is definitely one of their best customers. The
point I am making is this: there are times when we have to refuse
our customers for lots of really good reasons, but how we do this
is the key to keeping or losing their goodwill and possibly their
business. In this chapter we are going to look at how to make
it easier to say no as well as some tips on how to say it in ways
that don’t only limit the damage done but actually still delight
your customers.
When you have to say no, find a way to turn it into a wow moment. At
Disney, if a child waits in line for a ride only to find he is not tall enough
for the ride, they are presented with a certificate that allows the child and
the family to go immediately to the front of the line when the child is tall
enough – a potentially bad moment turned into a wow moment.

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