How to Handle Adjustments: Part 2- Refusing an Adjustment

Adjustment requests from customers are more common in some fields than others, but, regardless of your line of work, understanding how to effectively grant or refuse a customer’s request for an adjustment is an invaluable skill to add to your list of employee know-how. But how should you go about delivering the bad news and refusing to grant a customer’s request? By following the tips below, you help to ensure that your refusal to grant a customer’s request for an adjustment will be effectively prepared. (For tips on how to grant a customer’s adjustment request, see part one of this article.)

It is important to understand that preparing a refusal is much different from granting a request. Whereas a response that grants an adjustment request is likely to be well-received, your response offering only refusal will probably be very ill-received, so consider the delicate nature of this matter before preparing your response. Recognize that most customers who take the time to write an adjustment request are not expecting their request to be refused; if they thought it would be refused, they probably wouldn’t have taken the time to write it in the first place. So not only will you be delivering bad news, but you’ll be delivering UNEXPECTED bad news. There is no formula for refusing an adjustment, but the tips below can help to give you a general idea of where to begin:

Don’t be too direct.

In structuring your response, experts recommend that you use an indirect approach. In an indirect approach, you present your case and explanation before reaching the main point of your letter. This affords you a valuable opportunity to persuade the customer to try to see things from your point of view, which – since they are unlikely to agree with your decision – is extremely important. By delivering the bad news from the onset, you risk sounding too blunt, which could offend the customer, so present your explanation first instead. This helps to convince the customer that your decision is logical and based on an unbiased evaluation of the situation. A word of caution, however: If you take too long to reach your point, you risk seeming as if you’re “beating around the bush,” so you need to find a satisfactory balance between these two extremes.

Don’t be accusatory.

Whether it is the customer’s fault or not, do not ever blame them for the mistake. The passive voice is helpful in establishing a sense of distance between the unpleasant situation and the customer. For example, instead of saying, “You subjected your laptop to abuse by leaving it in your hot car, so you voided your warranty,” try “The laptop appears to have been left in a hot car, an act which would void the terms of its warranty.” This is a small change, but it can make a huge difference in how well the customer reacts to your response.

Be clear.

In refusing an adjustment request, you will probably be tempted to use vague language because this type of language seems less likely to offend the message’s recipient. This is often a mistake, however, because it could create confusion as to whether or not you are actually refusing the customer’s request. Instead, while remaining polite, be clear and unambiguous in your refusal.

Provide a well thought out closing.

Despite the fact that you are refusing the individual’s request for an adjustment, your goal is not to lose them as a customer. Do not write this customer off as a lost cause; rather strive to be positive and courteous even though you must refuse their request this time. Offer them an alternative solution if possible, and also consider offering a “consolation prize” of sorts, a small token of your regret for not being able to satisfy their request. Coupons and gift certificates are helpful in softening the blow of your refusal and also in encouraging the customer to engage in repeat business with your company.

Although refusing an adjustment request will never be easy, the above tips can help you to compose a response that will be better received than one that is poorly thought out. Just remember that your letter will be read by a real person, a real person who is likely to be disappointed by your message; therefore, compose your response with that sobering thought in mind.

About Andrew Jensen

Andrew Jensen, a business growth, efficiency & marketing consultant, provides business advisory services for clients in the Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; York, Hanover, Lancaster & Harrisburg, PA regions. Andrew advises regarding business growth, productivity, efficiency, business startups, customer service, and online/offline marketing. Follow Andrew on Google+

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