I remember the first time I heard an unrepentant “No” from a business. I was a US Army 2nd Lieutenant in Infantry training at Fort Benning and I was rushing to get a haircut late on a Sunday night. As I walked in the door of the barber shop (Yes, it was on Victory Drive) about 20 minutes prior to closing, the owner turned off the lights and asked if I could leave so he could lock up. I needed a haircut before an in-ranks inspection on Monday morning, I was tired of the oppressive Georgia heat, and I let my temper go. The owner listened politely, said he was sorry, and asked if I could come back on Monday. Forty-five minutes later, I found another barber shop, and got my haircut.
If the customer is always right, then how come we do not always hear a “Yes!” from the business? When, as a customer, we hear a “NO” from a store, services firm, or any type of business, we are simultaneously shocked and the shock often gives way to anger. We say to ourselves, “How can they say ‘No’ to me? I have been a customer for a long time, I have sent business their way, and I go out of my way to visit this location!” The truth is, for both the business and the customer, sometimes a “No” is only temporarily and often times it is for the good of the business and the customer.
Below are six pointers to help us work towards a solution with the business.
1. Keep Your Cool! Being angry at the business, the owner, or the salesperson makes us feel temporarily better, but it does nothing to work towards a successful resolution to the issue at hand. Recognize that you will be angry and then slow yourself down when you feel your temper. Deep breathing, taking a drink of water or a short walk can all help relieve the tension.
2. Make Sure You Are Talking to the Right People. When you resume the conversation, make sure the person you are talking with has the authority, conviction, and ability to make the analysis and the decision that you want. If I want a discount off of a large flat screen TV, then the floor salesperson is probably not the primary person I need to talk to if I am dissatisfied with my current discount offer. Why? Because the floor salesperson does not have the authority to grant a larger discount. Make sure to ask probing and definitive questions to reach the person that has the authority to evaluate and make the decision that you want.
3. Describe the “Why” Behind Your Request and Your Goals. Communication difficulties in understanding the “why” behind both the customer’s request and the businesses decision are often 90% of the issue in the disagreement. Make sure that you clearly and simply state what you want, why you want it, what you are hoping to achieve, and what you believe the reason for the disagreement exists. I remember one time when I could not get a 3% auto loan that was being advertised by the car dealer and I was starting to get angry. When I restated my position, the salesperson thought that I had asked for a 60-month loan when only a 72-month loan was being offered with no early payment penalty. A few minutes clarifying the issues resolved the situation in my favor.
4. Research Your Other Options. Sometimes, it is best to go out and look at other businesses that offer the same or similar products and services. If you cannot find any other business that will offer what you want, then you may have to adjust your preferences. Researching other options is a great step to re-validate the company and their products that you are trying to do business with. Researching other options gives you a great idea of other options and possibilities that are available to help solve your problems.
5. See If You Can Get Part of Your Request. Once you have restated your request with the business clearly, found someone at the business with the authority to make the decision, and researched your other options, then you are set to go back and re-approach the business for an answer. You will also want to see if you can break your request into components. Looking at breaking your request into components gives you and the business another way to work towards maybe an 80% solution rather than 100%. Looking at how to fill parts of your request from one or more businesses is another option to create a successful outcome.
6. Pursue Other Options. And, sometimes, things just don’t work out for a variety of reasons. Even though it feels personal, it is not personal. When you hear a final “No,” be polite, thank them for your time, and head out to see your next two or three best options that you identified from your research. Don’t dwell on the “No.” Spend your time working with other companies that want or are a better fit for your business. Finding another provider is a step towards successfully solving your problem as opposed to stewing in a rage.
For me, my haircut story had a positive ending. While I did not get a haircut that night – the owner had to leave early to get to his daughter’s 9th birthday party. However, I did go back the next weekend for a haircut. The owner gave me a good discount on my next two haircuts and the walls were rich with pictures from the late 1950’s and early 1960’s of Airborne operations and timeless pictures from Ranger School. If I got mad, I would never have made that connection with the barber and learned about an element of US Army history I enjoy.
Have something to add to this story? Share your advice below in the comments.
About the blogger:
Chad Storlie is the author of two books: Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and Battlefield to Business Success. Both books teach how to translate and apply military skills to business. An adjunct Lecturer of Marketing at Creighton University and Bellevue University in Omaha, NE. Chad is a retired US Army Special Forces officer with 20+ years of Active and Reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units. He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the United States. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab. In addition to teaching, he is a mid-level marketing executive and has worked in marketing and sales roles for various companies, including General Electric, Comcast, and Manugistics. He has been published in The Harvard Business Review blog, Business Week Online, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, and over 40 other publications. He has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.
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