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When customer service means saying no

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The other day, a potential client inquired about having me speak at his company’s annual meeting. Typically in this situation, one of the first questions I’m asked is “Are you available on this date?”

That one was easy to answer. (I was.) Once we started discussing his goals, however, I realized that I was not the right fit for the meeting. So I happily recommended one of my colleagues. My would-be client was surprised that I was so willing to turn over business to a competitor. While I consider my competition to be “friendly,” nevertheless, I was turning away business.

Why would I do this? Three reasons:

1.     It was the right thing to do. I wasn’t a good fit, and it would have been a mistake to speak at my prospect’s meeting. The success of his event was at stake, and I wasn’t about to be the reason it failed.

2.     I’m confident. I had confidence that if I cared more about my would-be client’s success than about getting the booking, he would eventually care enough to bring me in when I am a good fit. I had faith that he would remember me when he sits down to plan his next meeting.

3.     It’s just good customer service. It’s that simple: I put my clients’ needs ahead of mine. The best customer-focused companies care more about meeting their customers’ needs than about making a sale. They’re interested in the long term.

Are you confident enough to recommend your competition? In the right situation, it’s simply good customer service.

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Shep Hyken is a professional speaker and best-selling author. For more information on Shep’s speaking presentations, call 314-692-2200, email [email protected] or go to


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