The Business Part of Business

10 Steps to Saying No Graciously

And now, we present 10 Steps to saying no graciously!

Except, of course, that there’s only one step. Before you say no, put yourself in your customer’s shoes.

Simple, right? It’s easy to say something so obvious, but there’s a lot of room for people with different views of the world to misinterpret you. In business process and customer service, saying no graciously can go a long way.

This week, a client asked me for some help saying no graciously to a customer who was asking for a refund. It took me about 3 minutes to write her a template:

Dear <name>:

We’ve looked carefully at your request for a refund of the fees for <whatever> that you registered for in <date>, trying to find a way to make honoring your request make sense. And in short, I’m sorry to tell you that we cannot offer you a refund.

To get more detailed: our current policy is that we do not offer refunds for classes once 72 hours have passed. But to be fair, when you booked <whatever>, our policy was that you could have a <%> refund in the first <time>, followed by a <%> refund until <x time> had passed. Thereafter no refund was allowable under the policy. We’re well past that point.

Even though over a year has passed, we’re happy to book you for <whatever> if you’d like to complete your training with us by <date>.  Please let me know if you’d like to do that!

Notice that “no” comes through loud and clear. Notice also that the reason for rejecting the customer’s request is front and center. Finally, notice two specifics: a very long time had passed, and even though our client has a clear refund policy in place she was honoring a more liberal policy that she’d used a year ago.

Saying No Graciously

So where does that “10 steps” thing come in?

The saying no graciously message is quite simple: we aren’t giving you the refund you’ve requested. The ten steps manifest in defining the mail-merge-like variables in the message. And no, the customer wasn’t happy, but she got it. And my client covered her position of not wanting legal grief.

The thought that there can be ten variables in the simple act of saying no graciously can be frustrating. But communications—especially at process-defined high volume levels—can be complicated. It’s that business process thing that matters here. Reinventing the wheel each time something you hadn’t pre-planned happens is a tremendous waste of time!

The trick here is the business process element of things combined with the “gracious” part of saying no graciously. The more you process a conversation the more sterile it can sound; that makes for bad customer service. But you can do it.

Take our template and play around; I’d love to hear how you do.