Shep Hyken\'s Customer Service Blog

Customer Service Tool: One to Say Yes, Two to Say No

Empower your people to come up with a solution.

It’s easy to say, “I’m sorry, we don’t have that… We can’t get it… We can’t do that… It’s not our policy” Blah, blah, blah.  In other words, it’s easy to say, “No.”

But, that is not what amazing companies do.  Amazing companies empower their employees to find solutions for their customers.  They train, motivate, and praise their employees for coming up with“Yes” answers for their customers. 

At Ace Hardware, the role model for my upcoming book Amaze Every Customer Every Time, one of the tactics that many of the retailers have adopted is a concept called “One to Say Yes and Two to Say No.”  The concept is simple.  At Ace, a single associate (employee) can’t just say “No” without exhausting all options.  Furthermore, it takes two people to say “No” to the customer.  In other words, “No” requires the approval of a manager.

For example, a customer wanted a Toro lawnmower that Ace didn’t stock.  While the store carried Toro lawnmowers, they just never carried that particular model, and the customer was insisting on that one specific model.  The store associate could have told the customer, “No, I’m sorry we don’t stock that model,” and the customer would have left to buy the lawnmower from a competitor.  But that’s not what happened.  Instead, the associate called the manufacturer and asked if he could place a special order for one of the store’s customers.  Just a few days later that customer had the lawnmower she wanted.  One other important point: the associate didn’t have to get the manager’s approval.

The idea of empowering the employee to say “Yes” to a customer seems natural.  Yet to get the approval of a manager to say “No” to a customer is the opposite of what many of us, as customers, have experienced.  We’ve all heard someone tell us, “Hold on while I get a manager to approve this.”  Yet, you have probably never heard an employee say, “Hold on while I get a manager to confirm that I can say ‘no’ to you.”  Of course, an employee would never actually say that.  With this strategy, the employee has been trained to come up with solutions that are customer focused.  The idea of having to go to the manager for approval to say “No” to a customer is what empowers the employee to come up with a “Yes” solution for the customer.

In the process of writing about this concept, I found that there were other companies that embraced this approach. However, it doesn’t seem to be the norm.  But, the companies that do make this a regular practice a part of their customer-focused culture reap the rewards of happy customers, repeat business and more success.

NOTE: This article is a modified excerpt from Shep Hyken’s upcoming book Amaze Every Customer Every Time: 52 Tools for Delivering the Most Amazing Customer Service on the Planet.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, professional speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact (314)692-2200 or For information on The  Customer  Focus™ customer service training programs go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright ©MMXII, Shep Hyken)

  1. Lee Townsend says:

    I agree, in this tough economy this kind of strategy could really differentiate companies as “yes” or “no” answers can really switch customers on or off. If this strategy can work in a direct customer service encounter then could it also be applied to other customer encounters to enhance customer retention? For example, instead of lengthy surveys go for a simple “yes” or “no” to the question “Are you happy with the service you received today?”. If companies acted on that simple knowledge in an innovative way, this could build on the customer amazement you mention.

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