the art of rejection

It’s always particularly thorny when a long-term and loyal customer has a request that you already know is just not going to happen. Learning how to say no and respond to otherwise negative feedback is possibly one of the biggest hallmarks of good customer support. The key to it is just being straightforward.

Be upfront about it

Don’t sell false hope to anyone, especially not to someone who’s already committed to your product. Just tell them politely that you can’t accommodate their request.

Explain why

Providing a reason that’s actually understandable to the person with the request is by far the best course of action. This is the one thing that will give the customer the impression that: 1) you paid attention to their request and understand their need for it, and 2) you’re approaching them on an equal level while considering their ideas with regards to the future of your product. This doesn’t have to be very complex—just a couple of lines about the potential feature’s possible applications being highly specialised and therefore not applicable to a lot of your customers or about it requiring serious back-end changes that would affect many more aspects of your product is enough to make a difference.

Don’t be overly brief either, though. Giving a very broad and (ironically) inaccessible reason like ‘accessibility’ is more likely to leave your customer annoyed, if they don’t immediately understand how the accessibility of your product will be limited by this feature, or hard done by, if they read it in a way that they disagree with.

Provide a workaround

This is a nice way to accommodate the customer’s request even if you’re unable to code it directly into your product. If there is no workaround already, try to think of a way to create one. A product that allows for a high degree of customisation will definitely be a more versatile, flexible, and therefore appealing product.

Thank them for their feedback

Be genuine about it. Remember that feature requests and customer feedback are great ways to grow and develop your product. There’s potential for finding a new direction to head in to for every “no” you have to send, so use every opportunity to encourage your customers to send in feedback.

Pay attention to your tone

All the tips about the content of your reply won’t make a difference if the tone comes across as condescending, so put time into phrasing it to the best of your ability.