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7 Situations Where You Can Say No to the Customer

It’s a common opinion that the best customer service is about fulfilling every possible request from your client. Some go as far as stating that always saying yes to the customer is “business 101.” In fact, there are quite a few scenarios where this would not be the best approach, mostly because saying yes would lead to negative consequences for the rep, company, or clients. Today, we’ll discuss seven scenarios where CSMs can and probably should say no to customers and why this is important. Many of these scenarios are applicable not only to customer success managers but also to anyone in a customer-facing role.

#1 When the client requests for you to be available at any time

Customer success managers can be of great value to clients. By uncovering the benefits the clients’ organization can get from the product or service, CSMs maximize the return on investment and drive better business results. Sometimes the clients may get a little overexcited and expect their requests to be addressed immediately. This often happens when initially, CSMs do not mind the number of sessions they have with customers and jump on more and more calls should they be available to do so. As a result, the client expects the CSM to be available any time, any day — including weekends. This is not a good practice for several reasons.

Firstly, spending too much time with one customer limits the time the CSM has for other customers, which could lead to poor retention results. Secondly, there will be times when the CSM does not have availability. Since the customer is already used to receiving immediate support, they could consider this bad customer service. This is not about bad service per se, but about bad expectations that were set initially. A request from a client to be available at any time should receive a polite and persistent no.

#2 When the client demonstrates unprofessional behavior

There will always be situations where clients are disappointed with the product or service the company provides. The reasons could be many — from incorrect expectations to pure coincidences (for example, a request from the client getting lost). However, this doesn’t justify rude communication to a company representative. While acknowledging the client’s frustration and doing everything possible to address the situation is something that a customer-facing employee should do, both parties should keep communication professional and polite. So if a customer is communicating unprofessionally, CSMs must emphasize that while they would be happy to assist the client, rude behavior will not be tolerated. And if this does not change, unfortunately, communication will be stopped.

I would like to stress that you must draw a line between critical and rude communication. The former is constructive. While the things the client highlights may not be pleasant to hear, they are still an indicator that the client cares about the service and wants it to be improved. That’s much better than a situation where the client switches to your competitors’ solution. Managing constructive critical feedback is an important part of CSM’s work. Rudeness is unprofessional and should not be tolerated.

#3 When the client confuses customer success service with technical support

Having several contact people on your side for different questions may not always be convenient for the customer. Remembering who is the account manager, who is the customer success manager, and who is the support agent may seem inconvenient — especially when the same person (often a CSM or AM) is capable of answering all their questions. This doesn’t mean that the customer success manager should consistently cover for other roles and handle requests that do not fall into their area of responsibility.

Spending too much time on technical questions that are the prerogative of support limits the time CSMs have for other customers and, as a result, would result in poorer management of the book of business overall. It’s okay to answer some technical questions for clients, but it’s always a good idea to remind the customer of the best way to contact support for similar issues. If the customer keeps forwarding similar requests to CSMs, politely decline and reiterate the definitions of different client-facing roles for the client.

#4 When the client abuses a CSM’s help

The number of touches clients get from their CSMs per month/quarter/year usually depends on multiple factors, such as the clients’ size, growth potential, the total number of customers in the CSM’s book of business, and more. The number of touches is not written in stone, and if an additional call or two would lead to a decrease in churn risk or an expansion opportunity, it makes total sense to conduct them. It doesn’t mean, however, that clients can keep requesting more and more calls indefinitely.

Here at Wrike, if the client is requesting expanded support (e.g., 10 additional calls in a month to set up multiple processes in a hand-on-shoulder mode), we offer our paid professional services packages that are flexible enough to accommodate almost any requirements the client might have. Should all these calls be requested free of charge, we would politely decline. And in most cases, if the client doesn’t want to pay for the deployment, a certain middle ground can be found. For example, the CSM would not sit with the customer to work on every small detail but would provide strategic guidance and links to resources, so the customer can build everything themselves.

#5 When a call with a client is rescheduled several times in a row

Everyone is busy, and learning the best practices for using your product may not be at the top of your client’s priority list. A mission-critical meeting may emerge out of nowhere, and a call with a customer success manager may need to be deprioritized and rescheduled. However, this doesn’t mean that rescheduling can happen indefinitely. Every time a CSM books a call with the customer, their timeslot on the calendar is blocked, restricting them from spending that time on other customers. And if postponing is happening consistently, fewer calls with other customers would be conducted in the long run.

CSMs need to be clear on the acceptable amount of rescheduling. (Again, multiple factors may impact that decision, such as client size, the number of customers in the CSM’s book of business, etc.) Should that threshold be exceeded, it might be a good idea to decline the updated calendar event. Ask the client (potentially via email) when would be the best time to have the call from the business perspective so that they’re not overloaded and have the opportunity to attend the meeting at the agreed time. In most cases, such a message would be met with total understanding from the client’s side since they’re also uncomfortable with keeping you waiting and rescheduling the call again.

#6 When the client is running ahead of the train in the learning curve

It’s amazing when a client is dedicated to learning about your product and using it as fast as possible. However, one of the challenges with self-learning and self-onboarding is that you don’t know what you don’t know. The client may accidentally (or not) stumble upon certain advanced features which would not bring any value until the basic stuff is processed and fully set up. When educating the customer, it’s often important to say no to requests to go over advanced functionalities until you feel the client understands the core features.

You may, of course, say that you’ll be happy to give an overview of any feature the client may be interested in, but it’s critical to understand the basics first to get maximum value from the product. For example, here at Wrike, it’s highly unlikely that we would educate the clients on reports before teaching them how to set up projects. If the work itself hasn’t yet been added to the system, there wouldn’t be much to report on.

#7 When the client asks for a discount without agreeing to have a conversation

In many companies, CSMs do not even touch upon any commercial questions with clients, leaving this to account managers and other members of the sales department. However, if they do, this recommendation may come in handy. If the client is asking for a discount without providing any context or agreeing to have a call, they’re probably just price shopping. You don’t want to win clients only by price because it usually means low margin and high risks in the long run (if, for example, a competitor offers a lower price).

More than anyone else, CSMs know the value of the product and how to position it. Even if you’re eligible to discuss commercial questions, make value your main selling point, not price. Respond to any discount requests by saying that to get approval for a discount, you need to build a case for your leadership. That involves providing answers to such questions as the plans for growth, use cases involved, specific requirements, etc. Having meaningful answers here would help to get approval for a discount. Otherwise, you would only be able to offer the list price on your website.

Saying no to the customer may feel uncomfortable at first. However, understanding and accepting the fact that, in certain cases, it may bring value both to you, your company, and the clients’ organizations makes it totally justifiable.



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Artem Gurnov

Artem Gurnov

Head of Global Customer Engagement @Wrike