How to Say "No" to a Family's Request and Still Leave Them Smiling

People don't like to be told "no."  I don't.  You don't either, do you?  Especially in a customer service situation. 

Hearing "no" can be frustrating, aggravating and even upsetting for a family.  And if you don't say it in the right way, it can significantly damage the relationship you have or want to have with the family.

No matter how good your guest services team is, there will be times when you simply cannot (or should not) meet a request. 

Here's an example.  A new family forgets their pick-up tag.  They ask if you can release the child to them without it because they are in a hurry.  If you're going to stay true to your safety and security guidelines, you have to say "no" and follow the established procedure for a missing tag.

And even though it's not your fault, once it happens, the ball is in your court.  How you communicate the "no" may determine if your relationship with them is preserved or not.  Properly saying "no" is a skill that can be learned.  Here are some tips to help you say "no" and still leave families smiling.

Remember that families care as much or more about how you treat them as they do about the outcome of the request.  When "no" is involved, emotions normally start running high.  It is critical you see the people, not just the issue.  When they see you truly care about them and you treat them with respect, they will remember that above hearing "no."  Be more concerned about reconciliation of the relationship than you are about resolution of the issue.  First and foremost, people will remember how you made them feel.

Explain the reason behind the no.  Families are generally more receptive of a "no" when they understand the reason behind it.  When you don't take time to explain the reason, you can come across as insensitive or hiding behind a policy - which can further escalate the situation and make the family even angrier.

Comp them in some way.  Don't just say, "those are the rules" or "that's our policy" and leave it at that.  Offer them some type of recompense and turn the negative into a win.  For example - your rooms are at capacity and you have to turn away a family that wants to check in their preschooler.  Comp them with free coffee or refreshments in the parent room or overflow space.

Thank the family for working with you to resolve the issue.  Let them know you appreciate their patience and understanding.  This once again helps the family feel valued. 

Your turn.  The floor is yours.  How do you say "no" to a request without losing the relationship?  Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.