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Process of Saying "No"

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No one likes to hear the word "no". It is an obstacle and an irritation. It stops us from moving forward on our chosen path. And when we run into this block, most of us will try to get around it. Even those of us who don’t make a significant effort to overcome it will certainly feel the impulse to do so.

It is particularly hard to hear the word "no" when our money or our general well-being is at risk. That’s why it is important that call centre agents approach the word “no” with skill, diplomacy and empathy. Without these attributes, customer interactions become loaded with opportunities for things to go wrong very quickly.

When clients hear an abrupt or undesirable “no”, you may find them employing a number of strategies to get around, under, over, or through the impasse.

Here are few you may recognise:

  • The customer hangs up and calls back again in the hope of reaching a different agent who will give them a different answer.
  • The customer raises his voice, argues and/or expresses anger toward you.
  • The customer asks to speak with a supervisor (even though you may have made it clear that it is a corporate policy/procedure and not a personal decision on your part).
  • The customer threatens to take their business elsewhere.
  • The customer tries to "bully" you into action by insisting you do what he has asked.
  • The customer ‘compliments’ you by telling you that ‘if anyone can do this, you "can".

Unfortunately, though we always want to help the customer as best we can, we can’t avoid saying "no" from time to time. In these instances, what we can do is pass along that information in a way that minimizes disappointment or defensiveness. We can choose our words in such a way that we optimize the potential for buy-in. It is not so much what we’re saying, but rather how we’re saying it.