Sometimes we’re the people who say no. Not because we delight in being contradictory, but because we know that when it comes to solving problems for our clients, we can’t succeed if we go along with what they were already doing or thinking.

Don’t worry — our discovery meetings, brand workshops, and kickoff meetings don’t consist of us shooting down every idea. “No” should be the start of a conversation. (Unless you’re my tween.) In our world, every obstacle or hard line warrants a discussion.

customer service

When it’s a no, what’s next?

Why not? What else can be achieved? Why is this what you want? When we know it’s right to say no, we don’t leave our clients hanging. We take the time to present alternatives and educate.

It isn’t always smooth sailing, but we know that clients — and humans — have a natural tendency to trip themselves up. Perspective is important. That’s why we’re here to support them and each other with helpful alternatives.

When “no” isn’t a customer service strategy.

In the service industry, telling the customer no typically doesn’t lead to a better path or a helpful discovery. It leads to negative reviews, disgruntled guests, and a drop in repeat business. Sure, an alternative may be proposed, but the window of positive outcome is much smaller. There’s always a competitor, another activity, another food option — and a Facebook wall ripe for putting you on blast.

Despite knowing the importance of a positive customer service experience, I was shocked and excited to learn that Anthony Perrone of Pin Chasers in Tampa, Florida challenges every single one of his employees to say yes. Always. Every time. It’s the cornerstone of his customer service strategy.

Harnessing the power of happy people.

Every industry thrives on the power of customer delight. Delighted people are influencers. They go out into the world and spread the good word about your business. “Our service model is designed to give us the best chance to make a great first impression by allowing all of our staff to never let our rules (unless it is safety-oriented) to get in the way of making our guests happy,” says Perrone.

Saying “yes” takes many forms at Pin Chasers. A mom with young kids might ask for help carrying balls and shoes. A group strapped for cash might need special pricing. A guest with dietary restrictions might need an off-menu item. “We believe we needed to operate our bowling centers to thrive in the experience economy and to be people-driven and system supported to make that happen. The safety net for the entire model is the 100% guarantee, no questions asked. It is a great experience, or it is on us.”

Smart exceptions make the strategy scalable and realistic, and easier to apply to other industries and organizations.

When old-fashioned is forward-thinking.

Once I attended a Pin Chasers management retreat and heard how strongly service and customer satisfaction are emphasized to all employees, I began approaching my own client interactions differently.

“We were also influenced by what most call old-fashioned service,” says Perrone. “We believe we should learn our guests names, look them in the eye and greet them first. We believe we should say please and thank you.”

At a digital agency, does old-fashioned have a place? Absolutely. When we can meet in person or at the very least pick up the phone, the outcomes are always better than a convoluted email thread. When we do have to say no, saying it with empathy and explaining the benefits of an alternate approach make it an opportunity — not an insult.

In digital marketing, strategic touchpoints take the principals of old-fashioned customer service and apply them to modern means of communicating. When we can’t look someone in the eye and smile, we make sure the messages they receive have value and meet them where they are.

In digital marketing, strategic touchpoints take the principals of old-fashioned customer service and apply them to modern means of communicating.

People complain about the bad stuff, but they remember the good stuff.

Perrone’s favorite example of a customer service win isn’t one that brought him a bump in revenue. It’s one that brought joy to his guest — who wanted a particular craft beer instead of what was on tap. His employee went to the grocery store and bought a six pack to sell the guest at a fair price. “That is our system at work. Happy people making sure people are happy having fun in our bowling center. It is a simple process at its core.”

Although we’re the people who aren’t afraid to say no, we’re also able to say yes whenever it makes sense and propels our client toward their marketing goals. Because we’re an Agile marketing agency, we have the ability to pivot — not at a client’s whims, but because of new challenges, smarter tactics, or shifting goals. It’s a delicate, exhilarating dance. Thanks to clients like Anthony Perrone, who lead by example, we’re reminded to navigate those waters with a smile. And maybe a six pack of craft beer.

Struggling to identify your brand’s core values, marketing goals or brand messaging? Let’s talk. We’ll only say no if it makes sense.