7 Practical Tips on How to Reject a Customer Nicely

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By Eva
March 2, 2022

Damon Zahariades, the author of the book "The Art of Saying No," quotes,

"If you're constantly saying yes to other people, putting their priorities ahead of your own, you won't have the time or energy to care for yourself. You'd slowly become irritated, cynical, and miserable."

If you felt forced to go to an event you didn't want to attend or landed another project you dislike, you do not know the art of saying no, and that's alarming.

Customers approaching your company does sound overwhelming, but at times, you'd need to turn down a few for good reasons. But how to reject a customer? Stick with us to learn some practical yet polite ways to do that!

7 Practical Tips to Reject a Customer (Nicely)

Damon Zahariades, the American author, gives an impeccable example demonstrating the importance of saying NO.

In his book, he mentions that a flight attendant would explain the nitty-gritty of airline safety to passengers. But in the event the cabin decompresses, the flight attendant is supposed to wear their oxygen mask before helping others put on their oxygen masks.

If the attendant does otherwise, they'd be at risk, and it would prevent them from helping anyone else.

Consider you are the flight attendant.

You are saving yourself the trouble by rejecting your client and perhaps saying YES to someone else when turning down the customer.

This could even be the customer you've served before or a long-term client you do not want to let go of. So, while it does sound scary, there are times when you have no option but to refuse. For instance:

  • If your client asks you to do something you cannot do.

  • They are disrespecting you.

  • They are asking for a discount that you cannot give.

The question, however, is, how to reject a customer? Saying no isn't difficult - unless you don't choke up on guilt - the real art is to say it politely.

Here are some practical ways to reject and not offend.

1. Offer What You Can Do

Before you reject their request right away, restate their problem and assure them that you're genuinely concerned. Then, think of alternatives.

Is there something you can do for them? Can you solve their problem by offering them something else? You need to show them you're on their side. Focus on what you can do rather than what you cannot.

It is more like using positive language rather than negative. Avoid saying,

  • "I'm sorry, but I cannot do this."

Instead, try something like,

  • "I can solve your problem by offering XYZ services."

The XYZ services might be irrelevant or not what they seek currently; it is better than rejecting them straight away.

Also, if you know someone who can help them, consider recommending them to your customer.

2. Gain Clarity Before Saying No

Not all customers state things in a clear, concise way. Initially, you might feel they're asking for something you cannot offer, but you could be wrong. Customers often tend to speak in a roundabout way. So, before hastening and saying NO in the blink of an eye, gain clarity.

Ask them questions about what you understood and comprehend what they actually mean. Here are some helpful examples:

  • "I am not quite sure what you meant. Could you please explain further?"

  • "If I understand correctly, did you mean…?"

  • "To avoid any misunderstandings, I'd like you to confirm…."

  • "I apologize for the inconvenience, but if you can, please repeat what you said."

This would help you gain a clear understanding of what they mean and tell it apart from what you understood.

3. Say "No" Without Actually Saying It

You do not always need to say NO to your customer's face. Instead, wrap it up into positive content and make it sound less displeasing.

If you learn the skill of saying negative things in a positive way, you'd rarely offend anyone - as long as the person at the other end isn't highly sensitive.

Here's how to say "No" without saying it:

  • "Regrettably, we do not offer this feature currently. Apologies for the discouraging news."

  • "We do not think the product will be available any time soon. We apologize for the disappointing news."

Note that not refusing a customer's request isn't always because of unwillingness. Sometimes, you have limited resources, and it's perfectly alright to turn down the request.

Damon Zahariades mentions,

"Helping others is honorable. But your resources are limited. You only have so much time, money, and attention at your disposal."

4. Be Empathetic

Where everything fails, empathy wins. Empathetic statements create a mutual understanding and develop trust. So, before breaking the negative news, walk in their shoes and show them you care.

Here are a few examples shedding light on an empathetic tone:

  • "I can understand that this feature is important to you."

  • "I would have been upset if I was in the same situation as you; let's see what we can do to help you."

  • "Please accept my sincere apology, however…."

  • "I totally agree, but here's the deal."

5. Craft an Email

If face-to-face communication feels intimidating, you can craft a refusal email. But how to reject your customer via email?

Maintain a formal tone but do not forget to use empathetic statements. Begin by addressing their concerns and show you understand their wants and needs.

Emphasize that you're genuinely concerned and then proceed by dropping their offer.

6. Be Responsive and Upfront

Because you want to reject a customer, it doesn't mean you have to avoid having a conversation with them. You will sound rude if you don't respond to the customers on time.

So whether it's a phone call, a text message, an email, or an in-person meeting, make sure you talk and reply to your customers.

Be clear, precise, and upfront about your refusal, but do so in a polite way. Don't leave them hanging and avoid creating misunderstandings by not communicating efficiently.

If you aren't responsive or transparent about what you're willing to say, it will confuse your customers and ruin your reputation.

7. Remember: Saying No Isn't Personal.

The only reason saying NO feels a tough row to hoe is because we think we're hurting other people's feelings. Note that you aren't responsible for how others feel unless you have actually harmed them.

If there is a genuine reason for dropping someone's request, you shouldn't hesitate to do otherwise.

Zahariades points out in his book that some people will consider you selfish for saying no. But you cannot control that. What's worth noting is that you are not responsible for the feeling that way.

You should prioritize others, but if you are neglecting yourself in the course, you're up to no good. It's similar to the concept of loving yourself first. If you do otherwise, you simply cannot love others. The same goes for prioritizing your needs.

Final Words

Many business owners frequently ask this one question, "How to reject a customer?" The concern they show is genuine because it is pretty challenging to reject someone, especially a customer who could play a role in your company's growth.

But perhaps there will be times when your customer's expectations would be too much, or you simply cannot offer what they want.

It's OKAY to refuse at this point, but the key is to do so gracefully.

Cover Photo by Daniel Herron on Unsplash