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First Commandment

Thou Shall Learn To Say No

Saying no to a customer is a critical ingredient in making your business a success.

There are two forces working against one another.

1. Customers want you to be available immediately and provide professional services. They want both at a discounted price.

2. You, on the other hand, are trying to provide professional services and make your business profitable so that you can make a good living. Plus, somewhere in the mix, you want to stay married and have family time.

Thou Shall Learn to Say No to Customers


So how do you reconcile this conflict?  One of my wise customers taught me this lesson many years ago.  He owned a successful garage door opener company. I was running a service call at his home at about 3 o’clock one Friday afternoon prior to a holiday weekend. I commented that he was home early. He smiled and said,

“Harry, if I answer the phone at this time, prior to a holiday weekend, I am not going to give the customer the answer that they want and they will be unhappy.  My solution is to not answer the phone. I will call them Monday morning.”

Thou Shall Learn to Say No to Customers


I can hear his customers crying. “Why can’t you send a man out now?” “Don’t you run calls on Saturday?” “I can’t get my garage door open.” “My car is trapped!” “I thought you guaranteed your work.” He is wise by avoiding all these grief-stricken conversations! 

We get the exact same calls Friday night, Saturday, Saturday night, Sunday morning. My freezer is thawing out. I need a serviceman right now!

Thou Shall Learn to Say No to Customers


I’m sorry, but we are not operating a 24-hour emergency service company. Let them call a 24-hour service and see how that works out.  My experience has proven that desirable customers know and will wait until Monday.

Customers are pretty slick at pushing and being very demanding. It is your task to provide them with excellent service within your set of rules. Believe me, there is no shortage of customers; the trick is to pick the good ones out of the crowd. Running a Sunday morning call raises the customer’s expectations. If you do it once, they will expect you to do it again and again. Say no the first time and the problem is solved.

Unrealistic time expectations are just one,“Sorry but no,” area. Others include scheduling, distance, return trip quickness, pricing, warranties, using their parts, digging them out of doing it yourself holes, and many others. These customer policies are fully covered in my course material.

Thou Shall Learn to Say No to Customers

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