We have all heard the mantra, “The customer is always right.” Originally coined by Harry Gordon Selfridge in 1909, the logic behind this business philosophy is to instill a sense of good accountability towards customers. Many companies still use this principle and build their business models around it. With the fierce competition in the business world, some companies even go to ridiculous lengths to satisfy their customers.
However, the business landscape has greatly evolved over the years, making this customer-centric ideology outdated and irrelevant. Of course, businesses should always value good customer services, but as business owners, we should also protect our best interests. Taking this mantra a little too sincerely could be self-destructive. You need to acknowledge that the customers are not right all the time.
The cold, hard truth of the matter is that customers are not right all the time. Business owners do not need to bend over backwards to meet their customers’ expectations.
Why You Should Learn No to Some Customers
For many businesses, saying “NO” to customers is not easy. There is always a possibility of offending them or losing their support. However, following this business ideology by heart could drain both your resources and energy and can even take a toll on the entire team. It is a superpower to identify which prospects would make ideal clients and which ones to decline. Be clear about who you want to serve and give them your best service.
Meeting unruly and rude customers is a part of your business, but it should not mean doing business with them. While we would want to keep as many customers as we can, there will always be customers not worth having. Working with a bad client does not only consume company resources but our valuable time, as well. Forcing a bad partnership could hinder the success of the project and would end with the dissatisfaction of both parties.
Businesses should not be dependent on individual customers and spend too much time and energy to satisfy someone who does not intend to be happy. Believing that you can satisfy all customers 24/7 is a fool’s errand. Even the most successful companies know that it is impossible since every customer has unique needs and wants. Attempting to satisfy every customer could result in business failure.
Most importantly, mutual respect is a must between business owners and customers, in terms of time, knowledge, and contribution to benefit both parties.
When to Set Boundaries
Saying no to customers appropriately and effectively is a valuable skill every business owner should learn. It starts by identifying the circumstances in which you should exercise your power to say “no.”
Here are some telltale signs that it is time to let go of your customer:
- When customers want you to go against company policy – Customers trying to take a mile to obtain special favours or discounts from your services are not worth keeping. Although it is our instinct to satisfy a customer with a complaint, these types of customers might force you into giving in to their unreasonable demands.
- When customers have unrealistic expectations and desires – Businesses constantly evolve — it could be a change in the process of your service or a design of your product. However, not all customers are happy about it. Some will even request you to change it back. These are some of the unrealistic demands of your customers. Changes happen because they are crucial for your business’ growth. Unfortunately, not all customers can adapt to these changes.
- When you need to exercise self-preservation – Our time and energy as a business owner are limited. Devoting our time and energy to a customer can only be justified when there is a need to solve an issue and make a customer happy. A grateful customer makes all our time and effort worth it. At times, setting boundaries and declining the unrealistic demands from customers can keep us sane. Not knowing who to apportion your efforts can increase your risk of burning out. Know who your ideal customers are and what you can or cannot offer. Once you figure out that they are not a good fit for your business, it is okay to say “no” to them.
How to Say No to Customers
While it’s a necessity, saying “no” to customers is a matter that must be handled with delicacy. If not handled properly, it can affect your brand image and reputation. How do you decline customers without jeopardizing your business?
Explain Your Reasons – Customers deserve a reasonable explanation when you turn down their requests. Be direct and honest without being harsh. Tell them why they are not a good fit for your business with respect.
Provide Alternatives – Some customers are not right for you, but they could be a perfect fit for other companies. You can refer them to other agencies that provide the same services as yours. You can also recommend books or courses that will provide helpful information to keep them moving ahead. That way, you are not leaving them empty-handed.
(In some cases) Cut the Cord Immediately – You do not want to work with a toxic client just because you need money or you are out of projects. Avoid bad clients at all costs and move on with as little drama as possible. You will thank yourself in the long run.
Customer centricity may be the new benchmark in customer service, but in some cases, you need to say no to a customer to save yourself, your employees, and your business. If you cannot please the client, the best thing you can do is walk away with a positive impression of your service, if not a solution to their problem.