Mouse Tip

#7  How quickly (and how well) do you say, "No?"

So you think you have great customer service.  You have a terrific reputation and have been around for many years.  You pride yourself on your product or service and are sure that all your employees are personally invested in the value of your customers.  

Guess again!

No matter how great you think you are, if you don't monitor how things are going and keep yourself available to customers for information, you never know what's really going on.  Take a look at the text of a real email exchange that occurred within the past 48 hours.  (Of course, I've blanked both the individual and the company name - for the moment - to protect the guilty.)


I have called the dealers in my area and contacted a couple online.  I am looking for a particular product:  OL1408BK.  So far I cannot find anyone with it in stock.  I understand that you will not have it available from you (through my local dealers) until after the first of the year.  I want it long before then.  Could you please put me in touch with any of your dealers who actually stock this product? 

 Thank you,


Unfortunately we have no way of knowing who might have any particular item in stock at any given time since we have no access to what they sell every day.
The only thing I can think of is to continue to call around - even outside of your local area. The easiest way is the dealer locator system on our web site - bigger cities usually have larger stores that carry more product. Sorry I can't help you more.

Get the feeling she didn't really respond to my question?


Can you not tell me which dealers ORDERED the item in Black?  The dealers I've contacted so far don't stock the black in that item.  If you could tell me which dealers stock it, I can then call to find out if they have any in stock


Unless I have the account's prior consent I am not permitted to give you information on who bought what. I am sorry that I cannot help you more.

Now I'm starting to get quite irritated ...


Well, that's a pity - since I had planned to replace all of my outdoor lighting with your product.  But If you cannot or will not help me locate what I need to get started, then obviously you are not particularly interested in getting business for yourself or your retailers.  If I ever found out that my own employees were of so little help to a customer regarding our products, they wouldn't be here long.

This means that I go with your competitor's line.  And I will be sure the retailer I buy from as well as every designer I know is aware of __________'s lack of interest in their customers


        The items are out of stock until a date that is unacceptable to you. Basic business policies regarding my customers rights do not interest you.  You seem to feel that unless you get your way regardless of any circumstance that translates to mean that we don't care about our customers and you want to "spread the word".
        We work very hard to get business for ourselves and take excellent care of our retailers which is why we are in business for 50 years+ so I resent your comments. Sometimes we get answers we don't like - but perhaps you have heard the expression about "shooting the messenger."
        I hope you are able to satisfy your lighting needs with the least possible disruption to you with what ever brand you choose. Happy Thanksgiving.

Was this responsive to anything?  And how well do you think this diffused the negative situation this individual created?

(if you want to know my final reply or who the company is, email us and I will respond privately with the information)

Now, the first question is, did she really have to say, "No," and, if she did, did she have to say it the way she did? 

The second question is, what could she have said or done  to ameliorate the problem?  Simple.  There were two courses of action which could have not only kept me as a customer but had me praising both her company and her product:

The best course:

 She would have checked her files, found two or three resellers who at least stocked the product, asked for my name and number and contacted the resellers with the referral, even better if she found a couple that actually had it in stock.  Or she might have asked the reseller if she might refer me to them.  

If none of the resellers she spoke with still had any of the product in stock, she could have gotten back to me and let me know that she had tried several of those with the most recent stock orders, but that they, too, were out currently.

I would have been saddened not to be able to get what I wanted when I wanted it, but, especially in this situation, I would probably be willing to wait until it was available.  Not only that, I would have been praising the company up one side and down the other for having tried to meet my request.

The lazy course:

She would have promised to check her files and see what she could do.  Then she would have gotten back to me about 4 hours later with the same answer as above - as if she actually had contacted some of the resellers.

My reaction would have been the same as with the best course.  Now, obviously, the reason the best course is best is that she would be assured of getting business for her reseller (making them happy) and locking me into purchasing more of her product.

Of course we cannot satisfy a customer all the time.  There are times when we must say, "No," to them.  But keeping the customer and preventing damage we cannot control depends entirely on how and when we say that dreaded word.

So how do your employees say "No" to customers?  

Revised: November 27, 2002 .