Why This 3-letter Word Will Solve (Nearly) All Your Customer Service Problems An expert customer service look at the essential reframing that is necessary for customer service success.

By Micah Solomon

Key Takeaways

  • Your customer service goal should be to never say a blunt "no."
  • Instead, make every effort to arrive at a "yes" for each customer interaction.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In the realm of customer service, a knee-jerk "no" response can shut a conversation down cold — and damage the relationship between a business and its customers. This is why it's essential to train all employees to adopt a positive approach, what I call "default of yes," a simple change (though hard to enact and sustain) that is absolutely certain, I've found, to significantly improve customer service and the customer experience.

The goal is to never say a blunt "no" (other than to the dangerous requests I delineate at the very bottom of this article), but, instead, make every effort to arrive at a "yes" for each customer interaction.

What you're looking to achieve is a company culture where every team member is poised to respond affirmatively to customer requests, even before understanding what the question or request might be. This approach requires dedication and commitment from everyone involved in the company, from top-level management to frontline employees.

Related: What I've Learned Training the Top Hotel Brands in Customer Service

As a customer service consultant, and as a customer experience trainer, I continually advocate for the adoption of this "default of yes" approach as a universal customer service practice. Once this approach is ingrained in your customer service standards and best practices, and most importantly in employee mindset and behaviors, the magic will soon begin.

Expressions such as

"Maybe she can help you when she gets in the morning; please call back then"


"Sadly, we cannot accommodate that request" are just different ways to verbalize a "no." Even if these refusals are articulated in the most refined language, they still represent a dead end for the customer.

A "No" or "We can't do that" shuts the door to continued dialogue. By contrast, a response like, "Here's what we can do," keeps the lines of communication open, fostering customer loyalty and passion for your brand. This positive approach paves the way for sustainable profitability for your company.

Let's take a real-life example of how this approach can be implemented. Joanne Hassis, a wonderful salesperson at Nordstrom King of Prussia (Greater Philadelphia), went above and beyond to avoid disappointing a customer (me!) with a "no." When Nordstrom's supplier discontinued my favorite short-sleeve shirts, Joanne found an alternative solution from a competing site with private-label shirts. Despite not making any direct money for herself or Nordstrom, her action solidified my loyalty to her and the brand, and I continue to recommend her services to others.

Important exceptions to "yes"

However, it is important to note that there are situations where a "default of yes" approach should not be applied, particularly when safety, health, security, privacy or legal compliance risks are involved. Doing so can lead to dangerous results.

Related: This Principle is the Secret to Making Your Customer Service Irresistible

Here are a few examples: Allowing a customer to move chairs around in a way that obscures a required emergency exit, bypassing account verification procedures, over-serving alcohol at a bar, leaving a swimming pool safety gate open for convenience or offering a ride after consuming alcohol.

In summary, while the "default of yes" approach is a powerful tool for delivering exceptional customer service, it should always be balanced with considerations for safety, privacy, security, and health. Adopting this approach will improve your customer relationships and contribute significantly to your company's bottom line. However, it is crucial to remember that the ultimate goal is not just about saying "yes" but about finding solutions that satisfy both the customer and the company without compromising safety and security.

Related: 5 Reasons Why You Should Always Say Yes, Even When the Answer is No

Micah Solomon

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Customer Service Consultant, Trainer

Customer service transformation expert, consultant, author, keynote speaker. Named "World's #1 customer service transformation expert" by Inc. Magazine. Reachable at micahsolomon.com. Very happy to hear from any readers at any time.

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