12 Tips When Saying No To Customers

Saying ‘no’ to customers the right way can turn customer frustration into customer delight. In this post, we break down all the best tips wh
Published on: Nov 15, 2023
Last updated: Nov 15, 2023


  • Effective customer service involves mastering the art of saying 'no.'
  • Empathy and explanation make it easier for customers to accept a 'no.'
  • Saying 'no' helps set boundaries, preventing issues in the long term.
  • Each customer interaction is an opportunity to strengthen relationships.
  • Leading with empathy during a 'no' can increase customer loyalty.
  • Acknowledging customer frustration and providing context is crucial.
  • Reframing a negative response positively helps maintain rapport.
  • Transparency in explaining reasons for a 'no' builds trust.
  • Setting boundaries, offering extra mile service, and proactive follow-ups are essential.

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No one wants to be the bearer of bad news; however, every customer service agent knows that it is a reality of the job. So, why not be prepared for the inevitable? Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said, “The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.”

In this article, we provide 12 tips when saying no to customers so you can turn an unpleasant interaction into an opportunity. In addition, we cover why saying no is important, when to say no, and situational examples.

Why saying 'no' the right way is important

How we say no to customers is crucial. As a customer service rep, it is essential because there is usually an emotional disconnect when we communicate through email, live chat, or over the phone.

Improved customer satisfaction

It's easier for customers to accept when saying no is accommodated with empathy and an explanation. If context is provided, most users will appreciate the attention you’ve demonstrated to the situation and realize you are looking out for their best interests.

Sets appropriate expectation levels

Saying no sets boundaries. Understanding the limitations of a product, service, or feature is helpful for users. It’s also important for companies because it can prevent you from signing up the wrong people, which in the long term, is better for your churn numbers.

A chance to build relationships

Approach every interaction with customers as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship. Even if they aren’t getting what they want, you can communicate the company’s values and show dedication to service.

Can lead to increased customer loyalty and retention

According to Hubspot, 78% of customers use customer service when determining if they will do business with a company. Again, take the opportunity to demonstrate why they are valued by leading with empathy and providing context for why you are saying no.

12 tips & best practices when saying no to customers

Learning how to tell a client no is an art form that takes practice to master. Remaining non confrontational is difficult when you aren’t being treated respectfully; however, study these tips, and you’ll be in a far better position to tell customers no.

Thank them for their understanding

Express gratitude for their understanding and patience. A simple acknowledgment can go a long way in maintaining a positive relationship with your customers, even when the answer is not what they hoped for.

Acknowledge any frustration they may be feeling

Empathize with your customers and acknowledge any frustration they may be experiencing. Validating their emotions shows that you understand their perspective and are sensitive to their concerns.

Reframe your 'no' in a positive light

Whenever possible, rephrase your negative response positively. Focus on what you can do to provide them with value through the available options rather than dwelling on what cannot be done.

Clearly explain the reasons for the 'no'

Transparency is key. Clearly communicate the reasons behind the decision to say no. This helps customers understand the situation and fosters trust by showing your decision is based on valid and reasonable grounds.

Avoid the urge to overpromise

Resist the temptation to overpromise to soften the 'no.' Providing unrealistic expectations can lead to further disappointment down the line. Be honest and set realistic expectations from the start.

Suggest alternative solutions

Offer alternative solutions or compromises that may meet the customer's needs. This demonstrates your commitment to finding a resolution and shows you are invested in customer satisfaction.

Assure them that your team is working on the issue

Reassure customers that their concerns are not being ignored and that your team is actively addressing the issue. Providing a sense of urgency and commitment can alleviate some of the disappointment and improve satisfaction.

Provide them with resources or content that may be helpful

Offer additional resources or content that could assist customers in finding a solution on their own. This proactive approach shows your dedication to customer success, even if the immediate request cannot be fulfilled.

Offer to get in touch if circumstances change

Leave the door open for future communication. Let customers know that if circumstances change or there are updates, you will be ready to reevaluate the situation and explore possible solutions.

Use it as an opportunity to go the extra mile

Turn a 'no' into an opportunity to showcase exceptional customer service. Offer something extra, such as a discount on a future purchase or access to exclusive content.

Set boundaries

Clearly define boundaries and expectations to manage customer expectations effectively. This helps prevent misunderstandings and ensures a smoother interaction between your business and customers.

Follow up

After some time has passed, follow up with the customer to check if their situation has changed or if there's anything else you can assist them with. This shows an ongoing commitment to their satisfaction and reinforces the company’s dedication to customer service.

When to say no to customers

The art of how to tell a client no is all about timing. As a representative, you’ll need a comprehensive understanding of your boundaries because every company has different policies.

When a request is against company policy

It is crucial to say no when a customer's request goes against established company policies. Avoid confrontation by clearly communicating these policies to customers and explaining their reasons. Emphasize your commitment to maintaining a fair and consistent business approach for all customers.

When a request is unreasonable

Exercise discernment in evaluating customer requests. If a demand is unrealistic or falls outside the normal scope of your products or services, it's appropriate to say no. Be prepared to explain why the request is unreasonable and offer alternative solutions when possible.

When a customer becomes rude or abusive

Unfortunately, customers can be unpleasant when seeking help. Remember not to take their behavior personally. Keep your cool, tell them no, explain why, and try to do so in the most respectful tone possible.

When the customer oversteps the customer-business relationship

Maintain a professional boundary in customer interactions. If a customer starts making inappropriate personal requests or becomes overly familiar in a way that breaches the professional relationship, it's time to say no. Politely but firmly reinforce the boundaries of the customer-business relationship.

When the customer asks for extras or freebies

While it's common for customers to seek added value, there are instances where requests for extras or freebies are unwarranted. Politely explain the limitations or costs involved in fulfilling such requests and reaffirm the value of your products or services.

Examples of situations when you may have to say no to customers

Now that we’ve covered when and how to say no to customers, let’s look at real-world examples. Below, we use a common scenario and provide options as to how you can respond most respectfully.

Customer on a free trial who asks for an extension

You don’t want to be taken advantage of or go against company policy. While there may be instances when extending free trials is appropriate, management typically does not allow this.

Here are some examples of how to say no in this situation:

“We're excited to hear you're finding value in our platform during your free trial! Regrettably, extending trial periods goes against our company policy, and I don't have the authority to grant extensions. However, I would be delighted to guide you through our payment structure and various plans, helping you discover a suitable option that aligns with your requirements."

Why this response works

  • You’re framing the interaction in a positive light
  • Showing interest that they are finding value in the product
  • Respectfully setting boundaries

Below is another approach:

"We're delighted to hear that you're enjoying our platform on your free trial! While extending the trial is not within our company policy, I appreciate your interest. Let's explore our payment structures and plans together to find a solution that best fits your needs and ensures continued access to our valuable services."

Why this response works

  • You remind the client they are enjoying the product
  • Focusing on what you can do rather than “no”
  • Respectfully explaining the company policy

Customer demands a feature request be met immediately

Again, setting boundaries is crucial here, but you still want to communicate that you value their interest in your product.

Here are a couple of ways to say no respectfully:

"We appreciate your enthusiasm for our product and understand the importance of the feature you're requesting. However, our team follows a carefully planned schedule to ensure the stability and reliability of our services. While I can't fulfill the immediate request, I'd happily escalate your suggestion to our development team. I will contact you as soon as I have an update about when the feature will be released. In the meantime, you can find the public product roadmap here.”

Why this response works

  • Sets expectations by communicating the agent can’t promise the immediate release of a feature
  • Suggests the next steps
  • Keeps communication open
  • Offers helpful content/resources

"Thank you for reaching out with your feature request—it's fantastic to see your passion for our product. Currently, our development team works on a structured roadmap to maintain the quality of our services. Although I can't implement the feature immediately, I'd love to gather more details about your needs and ensure your request is documented in our development plans for future consideration. Your insights play a crucial role in shaping the evolution of our product. While we wait for the feature to be released, here is a link to our public product roadmap."

Why this response works

  • Provides the customer context as to why the answer is “no.”
  • Communicates that customer feedback is valued in how the product is developed.
  • Keeps lines of communication open while they wait for the release.

Customer becomes abusive or inappropriate

Hopefully, you don’t have to deal with offensive behavior, but being prepared is always good. Remember to stay calm and try not to change the pitch of your voice. However, be stern and set boundaries early on.

Here’s how to approach this situation:

“I understand that you are frustrated, but for me to resolve the issue, I am going to have to request that you stop using offensive language. I am obligated to inform you that if you continue, I will be forced to end this call.”

Why this response works

  • Acknowledges customer frustration
  • Sets boundaries

"We appreciate your engagement with our services, but we must insist on maintaining a courteous and respectful exchange. Abusive language or inappropriate behavior is not conducive to a positive customer experience. If you have concerns, please express them in a constructive manner, and we'll do our best to address and resolve any issues you may have."

Why this response works

  • Keeps a positive approach to the situation
  • Offers a path forward


Telling customers no is an inevitable part of providing support services. While it’s not the most rewarding part of the job, you can use the interaction as an opportunity to build a relationship and communicate the company’s dedication to customer care.

Sources used:

Sources last checked: 12-Nov-23


Shifa Rahaman

Content Marketing Manager


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