How to Say “No” to Your Members

Need to say “No” to a member but just not sure how? On this week’s Latest Buzz blog, Bob Novak from the Zendesk team offers relevant and usable advice on how to do this successfully!

Having strong and genuine communication with your members is a vital part of retention. With that being said, we all know those members who will ask for things that their membership doesn’t include or things that aren’t possible to deliver. Sometimes saying “No” is hard, but necessary. Below we cover and summarize tips and tricks from Bob Novak, a Tier 2 Team led over at Zendesk on how to say “No”.


Make sure that “No” is the right answer! Saying no to a member and then coming back saying “just kidding” can lead to confusion and/or mistrust.

Bob suggests that “Just as saying “Yes” when it isn’t true erodes trust, saying “No” when something is possible leaves customers with the impression you don’t want to help”. So it is very important that you cover your basis before giving the customer a solid “yes or “no”.

Make sure to:

  • Be clear on what the customer wants or is trying to do
  • Determine if what they want is possible
  • It is often best to do this over a phone call.


Now that you understand thoroughly what the member is requesting, and you know for sure whether or not it is possible, deliver a reason as to why it is a yes or a no.

Be prepared for a “why not?”. Having the justifications ready for the member is important. Being able to explain to them why this is or is not possible is crucial for maintaining the relationship. If the reasoning makes sense and is realistic, most members can be completely understanding.

Try this:

  • “This is because…”
  • “That feature/ability/event is on our roadmap, but we are focusing on some very important initiatives relating to [insert relevant initiative]—so it may not be ready for a while.”


  • The staff/executives/developers don’t have time to deal with this now so I can’t say when we might get to it.


Don’t leave your members high and dry!

Bob suggests that when the answer is “No”, it should be a “No, but”, Meaning, that the answer to the customer’s specific question could be “No”, but, there’s still a way to achieve the goal they are trying to address.

Try this:

  • “Rather than…”
  • That isn’t an option, but I’d like to take a step back and ask what are you trying to achieve with this? I may be able to provide an alternative solution.”

When providing the member with alternatives you are hopefully able to lead them in the right direction. If nothing else, the experience would be an opportunity for them to submit positive feedback based on the interaction.

Read the full Zendesk article written by Bob Novak:

Use the 3 R’s to identify when and how to say “No” in customer service


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