I’ve always been a people pleaser

It’s one thing when you get a client to sign on the dotted line, it’s another thing to retain the client and keep them happy. I’ve always been a people pleaser in my personal and professional life and in the world of customer service, it’s a pretty admirable trait. But, reality is, it isn’t always feasible to say, “yes.”

Growing up, my biggest fear was disappointing my parents. I took pride in my schoolwork, was respectful to others and was always the first one to volunteer when it came to helping another person out regardless of the request. Maybe it was because I felt I was an overachiever… a perfectionist that would do anything to make sure that those around me were happy and content. Conflict was foreign to me and I avoided it at all costs.

Making my way into the work force after high school, I was hired at May Company, the department store. Customer service was key in every aspect of their training. And with every positive report turned in by mystery shoppers, you’d earn a gold star on your name badge. You damn well know that I was on a mission to earn my stars!

After graduating from college and transitioning into the corporate world, this “people-pleasing” part of my personality followed along and I have to admit, a little detrimental to my success. I’ve always been a really big believer in good customer service and it was hard for me to come to the realization that there will be times that I’ll have to say no to someone and leave them disappointed. Saying no to a person was perceived by me as a failure to deliver good customer service.

In my mind, I was to move forward saying, “yes” to everyone, every time… but instead of being rewarded for it, it seemed as though I was being punished. The more my clients heard “yes,” the more they demanded, and the more chaotic my life became. It was apparent that I was being perceived as a pushover and they were there to take advantage. Who can blame them really? I had devalued myself due to my own fears: the fear of hurt feelings, the fear of earning a bad reputation and ultimately losing the client.

The truth is, saying “yes” at the wrong time can hurt a client more than help them. Knowing when – and how –  to say “no” is key. I wanted to be the one that super-served my clients. I wanted them to like me and that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do. But reality soon set in and I had to learn a few things.



Saying No Doesn’t Equate to Bad Customer Service

Providing good customer service is a combination of solid communication, compassion, problem solving and putting together an action plan.

Not only do you need to communicate with clients in a clear and efficient manner, it has to reciprocated; they have to be just as communicative. Your client wants to be heard and understood. They want to know that you’re listening to them and internalizing what they have said, but they also want you to help solve and resolve their aches and pains. Though they may come to you with a solution or request that they came up with, they will always be open and eager to hear your take on the matter. Above all, once you have come up with a solution that works for all parties involved, they want you to put that plan into action.

Good customer service relies on solving problems, even if the solution is not what the client has offered.


Reasonable Requests

Know what’s reasonable and what’s a waste of time. It’s important to be able to identify each request. If your client comes to you because of a mistake that YOU made, acknowledge it and fix it, ASAP. If a client needs clarification about the details of a project, take the time to explain it thoroughly to avoid any future miscommunication.


Say it Right

You can’t always say yes to every client request. Learning to say no, and being subtle about it, is a very important skill in customer relationships. It also requires great degree of personal control. Remember: clients don’t stay forever just because you helped them out. However, they are quick to leave when they feel that you don’t want to help.

Don’t leave your clients with a flat-out “no.” That’s not the message you want to send. Instead, try to ease the pain of denial by suggesting alternative solutions.


In the end, I’ve learned that it’s not all about saying no or yes. It’s the impression you make that matters. Show your client that you’ve put some thought to a situation and you simply cannot fulfill the request. Instead of focusing on a problem, try putting the focus on what you have done to help.