As an IT professional it took me a long time to understand that we must say YES, and much of what we say to our customers is perceived as “NO”. No one, from a toddler to an adult, likes to be told “NO”, especially leaders. I need a new phone, a new pc, a new application, changes to software, etc., etc. The requests are endless in an industry where everyone is short-staffed, budgets are tight and processes are rigid. Any individual request may be the number one priority to that person, but very low on the priority list for the service organization involved. So here are my five tips on how to say “NO”.
1. KNOW your customer. Some customers want a solution and some customers want what they requested. KNOW the difference. From a practical standpoint IT must deliver solutions that work, not always what is requested. If the customer is the latter, avoid discussing specific details of the request. Details present more opportunities for you to say and them to hear NO. Defer the details until later and scope a solution minus exact details for this customer. Present it quickly and deliver quickly. It is easier and more efficient to tweak a solution than to argue scope and delay results.
2. USE a process and BE logical in the face of emotion. Have an efficient and simple process that covers commonly asked questions and needs (i.e. cell phones, pcs, printers, etc). Instead of saying, “No, you can’t have a new phone since yours is only one month old.” You can now respond in a Positive and Affirmative way that directs them to the proper form and process. The end result may be the same but the customer is more apt to perceive you as positive and helpful.
3. EXUDE positive energy. Always be upbeat and positive, but in a “real” way that fits your personality. The tone and attitude with which you deliver an answer can and most likely will determine how it is perceived. Be the person a customer invites to dinner, after you “deliver” bad news.
4. Build up an emotional bank account. Take key customers to lunch, develop a relationship, etc. Show them you are there to help. The more they KNOW you the easier it is to offer alternative solutions. In other words, develop trust. My customers know I will find a solution.
5. Deliver something. I have a key customer that says 80 percent of a pie tastes better than no pie. Get the customer a result quickly. This shows you are responsive and serious. Too many people talk, have meetings, and delay implementations by trying to deliver 100 percent of the requirements before beginning. In a dynamic environment that is difficult. In my experience, the requirements are rarely 100 percent accurate and will change once something is delivered. Implementing an 80 percent solution quickly and learning from real world use is far more effective than trying to design perfection in the classroom.