Don Khouri Blog

Say What You Can Do

Posted by Don Khouri on Sun, May 24, 2009

Are you telling your customers what you can do or what you can't do?  How you communicate your ability to meet their needs can make a huge difference.  It can come across as a positive that you are working with them and want to service them or that you are throwing up roadblocks.

I have been having some technology issues lately, and if you've had any experience with consumer products technical support, you may suspect that this has not been an easy process. After escalating the issue and requesting a replacement, I received immediate resistance.  "I can't replace your product or give you a refund". So, I proceeded to tell my story, the difficulties I was experiencing, and the time I spent trying to resolve the issue.  I continued to meet resistance. 

So, I escalated again. This was not easy to do and required four additional phone calls to get to the next level. This time, after I told my story, I got the response, "Don, I'm sorry for the amount of time you've spent on this. I don't want you to spend anymore time on this. I'd like you to send your unit to our best technical team. If they can fix it, great, and if they can't, I'll replace it." So, now I am listening. Now, I am willing to take another step before demanding a replacement. Something I was not willing to do before.  They both wanted me to do the same thing but approached it very differently.

Focus on what you can do, and get the same message across in a better way.  Here are some examples:

Don't say what you can't do...

Instead say what you can do...

I can't meet with  you until next week

I can meet with you next week

I won't be able to deliver that in May

I can get that to you by the first week in June

There's no way I can deliver all the functionality

I can deliver functions A, B, C in the first release and function D in the second release.

How are you servicing your customers? Listen to them, understand their reality first, and then communicate with them. Tell them what you can do, not what you can't do.

Don's Coaching Questions:

  • What is going well for your customers and what is not?
  • What are they asking you, and what can you do?
  • How can you help them resolve their challenges?


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