“Never say no when a client asks for something, even if it is the moon. You can always try, and there will be plenty of time afterwards to explain why it is not possible.” ~ Cesar Ritz
“Just say NO” was the mantra of the anti-drug campaign of the 1980’s and unfortunately, it was an abysmal failure. It will also likely be a failure with your customers when they hear the word, NO. Customers want to know what you can do to help them. They want to know what you are going to do to fix their problem. They want to know if you have the ability to meet their needs. If you don’t, they will take their business elsewhere.
When a customer comes to you with a problem, they are already on edge. Telling them, “No” is likely going to push them over the edge and escalate the situation. Let me deviate from this point for a moment and then come back to it.
In the self-storage business, required tenant insurance is becoming the norm rather than the exception. Requiring tenant insurance gets a lot of push-back from managers because at first, all they can think of is that customer will be upset with them. I explain it this way, and I do so because I’ve stood behind the counter and understand how it affects the customer/store manager dynamic. Picture a customer coming in who has had damage to their goods, whether it be a break-in, a roof leak, rodent damage, whatever. In their mind, they want compensation from you, they suspect you will try to get out of compensating them, and they see you before the conversation ever begins as their adversary.
Storage companies do not insurance a customer’s belongings. If the tenant has no insurance, they expect you to pay them for any damage they incurred since their belongings were stored at your property when they got damaged. If the customer has tenant insurance, you can instantly defuse the situation by telling them, “Great, I see here in your file that you have tenant insurance. Let me help you contact the insurance company and let’s get your claim started with them.” Immediately you have gone from being their adversary to being their advocate, and you didn’t have to tell them, “No”.
“No” is such an overused word in our society, it’s easy to say even when we don’t mean it in a negative context. A good example of this is the often overused, “No problem.” To many customers, using the words “no problem” indicates to them that they were not near as big of a problem as you thought they would be. That may not be how you meant it, but that also may be how they took it, and perception is reality. When someone asks for something, instead of saying, “No problem”, how about saying, “Sure, let me get that for you.” Or when a customer says, “Thank you”, instead of retorting with, “No problem”, why not use a very uplifting phrase like, “It’s my pleasure!” accompanied with a large smile. If you watch closely you will note the corners of their lips turn up slightly, their pupils dilate and they will stand just a bit taller. Congratulations, you just uplifted your customer!
You should also avoid using phrases that are the equivalent of saying, “No”, such as, “That’s our policy.” A customer should never hear those words. When a customer is making a demand you know you cannot meet, instead of telling them what you can’t do, tell them what you can do. Even if you don’t know what you will be able to do for the customer, let them know that. Tell them you find out what you can do for them and when you will get back with them on it, then be sure to follow up. Usually, that’s all the customer wants is to know that you are aware of their problem and are trying to help them with it.
Words mean things. Building great relationships with your customers is all about communication and that means learning better ways to use words. Think about all of the lousy customer service you have received as a customer. Think of how the waitress, mechanic, nurse, or customer service rep could have phrased their words differently that would not have sent you seeking someone else to do business with, then apply that to the words you use with your customers.