8 Ways to Say No to Customers with Examples

8 Ways to Say No to Customers with Examples
8 Ways to Say No to Customers

Have you ever heard “No” as a customer? How did you feel? Were you disappointed? Sometimes it may happen that we need to say “No” to our customers or deliver negative news. In fact, this is one of the most unpleasant parts of customer service workflow. Dealing with negative news requires specific skills and self-control. It is not easy to say “No” and continue a smooth conversation.

In any customer interaction, the words you say either ruin your relationship with a customer or build it up. That is why it is important for any company to do this right across all customer service channels. So, how to say “No” without spoiling your customer service experience? Here are 8 tips to begin with.

Say “No” without actually saying “No”

When you break negative news to clients you want to soften the blow and show them you understand their concerns. In most cases there is no need to say “No” directly. You can wrap your negative news into positive content, making it an ingredient of your “news sandwich”. Here are a couple of great tips which will help you to build your best positive “No”:

  • Assert your refusal. If you refuse to do or to deliver something your customers request, it does not mean you do not want to do this. This is just something your company does not provide. Explain this carefully to your customers without giving an empty promise. E.g. “Unfortunately we are not planning to implement this feature in the foreseeable future, sorry for disappointing news”.
  • Say “Yes” instead of saying “No”. When you can say “Yes” to something more important for your customer, do this. E.g. “Where can I download my chat conversations?” – “For security reasons we do not store chat transcripts on our servers, we send them directly to the email defined for this purpose in your account. Protecting our customers’ data is our main priority”.
  • Deliver positive news, even if you had to say “No”. No matter whether you provide any kind of service or run an online store, there is always something you can offer your customers to maintain your relationship. Even if you had to refuse, try to find something your customers will be interested in. Just do your best to offer a positive outcome. E.g. “I would be glad to offer you some extra customization and recommendations for optimizing your live chat customer service”.

Clarify things before you say “No”

Sometimes customers speak in a roundabout way and it is not clear from the very beginning what exactly they are requesting. Do not hurry to say “No”, clarify things carefully to avoid misunderstanding. Instead, ask clarifying questions to ensure that you understand everything. Here are some examples of such questions we use in our customer service communication:

  • “I am not quite sure I understand what you mean, could you clarify…….”
  • “If I understand you correctly you’d like to……”
  • “To avoid misunderstanding, could you confirm…..”

Begin with empathy

Empathy statements allow you to establish connection with your customers. Such statements create trust as well as mutual understanding. In most cases when you need to deliver negative news, it may be necessary to begin with empathy to show your customers that you care and will do your best to help them. Here are empathy phrases which you can use while communicating with your customers:

  • “I would feel the same in your situation, let’s see what we can do to sort this out….”
  • “I totally understand that this feature is very important for your business and its development is our highest priority”
  • “I know how frustrating it can be, may I offer you……”

In addition, it is necessary to use empathy words like:

  • “I would”
  • “I understand”
  • “I am sorry” or “Please accept my / our apology”
  • “I totally agree”

Explain things carefully

No matter how busy you are, do not leave unsaid words and explain your customers everything carefully, especially if you delivered negative news. It is important that people are aware that you are actually listening to their concerns. If you just tell them “No” without explaining, they will feel upset and frustrated. However, if you provide detailed explanation, you will clear up their concerns.

  • “Let me explain you why we cannot provide this feature at present”
  • “The main reason for this is that……”
  • “Please accept our apologies that the feature you request is not available at present. However, it is of highest priority and we will do our best to implement it as soon as possible”

Do not be afraid to say many words. It will not take much time, but will definitely add more positivity to your conversation.

Offer alternatives

Before you say “No” to customers, think of alternatives. Is there anything you can do for them? In most cases you can offer something and smooth over the effect of your negative news: “Though we do not support this payment method, we can keep your account active while you are sorting out the issue with your bank”.

Listen to your customers

Listening to customers is one of the most important aspects of providing excellent customer service experience. Your refusal to listen is one of the ways you say “No” to customers. No matter how busy you are, listen carefully to ensure you understand their questions and issues. If you deliver negative news without looking into their issues, you will ruin your relationship with customers. Here are three reasons why listening to customers is important:

  1. Show your empathy while listening. If your customers do not believe that you are truly engaged trying to understand them, they’re much more likely to walk away and turn to competition seeking a better customer service. E.g. “Could you provide more details about your issue so that I could ensure that there is no misunderstanding?” instead of “Unfortunately we cannot help you with this issue, sorry.”
  2. Focus on customer experience. Listening is one of the most important ingredients of superior customer service experience. Listen carefully even if you know that you cannot offer the best solution right here and right now. After you collect all information, you may offer an alternative and provide recommendations that will show your desire to help.
  3. Listening helps your company to improve. And this is true. If you not only listen to what your customers say, but also carefully document this, you can use this information to improve your products or service in future. Our customers are the best source for details about our success and failures. We can use the data they provide to make our company better.

Do your best to solve the issue

Showing your customers that you are truly engaged is the best way to win their trust. No matter whether you can offer any solution or not, you need to do everything you can to find it and to offer an alternative if you failed. Here are a couple of scripts for this situation:

  • “Unfortunately right now we cannot implement this feature. However, let me check with our management if we can do this in future.”
  • “I am afraid our Christmas promo is over. However, we will be glad to offer you a 15% discount for this subscription as you have been our loyal customer for 5 years.”
  • “I am not authorized to apply this update now. Please hold on for a while and I will check if there is a technician who can do this right away”.

Follow up

If you say “No” to customers, follow them up with good news and with your “Yes” to the feature or product they inquired. Keeping your customers informed about your progress is important if you want to win their loyalty. A simple follow up will not take much time. However, if you forget to notify your customers about available solution and they will find it out themselves, this will definitely spoil your reputation.

Over to you

It often happens that we have to say “No” to customers. However, we should be aware that they are waiting for positive news and will switch to competition if they do not get any. You are welcome to share with our readers your ideas about giving negative news.



  1. The professional relationship with the clients is something very important, if you look for a success in your profession, you have to know how to say not at the right time for your clients

  2. I think that the key thing for me is to explain why.

    If you have a good reason then most customers will accept that.

    And if you can’t offer a good reason then maybe you ought to change your policy….

  3. Ola, excellent topic to address, many times I had to say no to my clients, only some who understand and end up getting more faithful, others do not even want to know and end up calling their service garbage.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Natallia. Giving negative news is a real challenge we face while communicating with customers.

  4. it is fundamental a good treatment for the clients with the objective of loyalty and make the company grow. These were excellent tips, thank you.

  5. I think it’s more acceptable No matter whether you provide any service or run an online store, there’s always something you can offer to customers to maintain your relationship. Even if you have to refuse, try to find something that your customers are interested in. Just do your best to offer a positive result. For example, “I’d be happy to offer you some additional customizations and recommendations to optimize your live chat customer service.”

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