I remember this conversation Cory (my ex-coworker) had with a Dell customer service representative while we were driving to lunch. He had ordered a laptop that was scheduled to arrive before his MBA classes at Anderson (UCLA) began but there was a part specific to the LED backlight that was backordered and therefore his laptop was not going to arrive in time.
He was furious. I think he even paid for expedited shipping.
The CSR didn't have any answers and did not provide any options.
At the height of his fury Cory said something I'll never forget, "Stop telling me what you can't do and start telling me what you can do!"
That's a great motto to live by.
Because Cory's in a dire situation at no fault of his own (or the CSR). But the CSR isn't providing Cory any potential solutions. When you're handling an explosive situation you better have some outs. You must have potential solutions because "I can't resolve this issue" or "I can't help you" or "I don't know" just isn't good enough.
Which is why one of the best lines in customer service is "...but let me do some research and I'll get back to you".
Because the only thing more frustrating than hearing "I can't resolve this issue" or "I can't help you" or "I don't know", is feeling like the other person doesn't give a shit. That's the real problem. Cory wasn't mad that the CSR couldn't help him but rather that the CSR wouldn't help him.
And that makes all the difference in the world.
When I talk to my potential customers and they make unreasonable requests (which they do all the time). I don't just say, "I can't do that" because that would squash the deal. Instead I tell them, "Okay, but if we do that then we'd also have to do this" For example, "Okay, I can shoot this in 3 days (even though I really need 2 weeks) but you'll have to pay for my assistants and pay extra for retouching".
Because this allows my client and I to continue the conversation. If I just say "No" then the conversation is over and I just screwed the pooch. So instead, I give the client options. Preferably options that I can deliver and hopefully options that are palatable to the client's tastes.
An even better response would be something like, "I understand that you are in a time crunch with this project and I really want to help you resolve this. But you've got to help me help you. I can't justify the costs for this project as a 1-man-show at the current rate. So if you can pay the cost of a few assistants and be a little flexible in the pricing, I can deliver the images within the 3-day time frame".
What did I really say?
a. I understand and I want to help
b. But I need your help
c. Let's work as a team
With that sequence of statements you should be able to convince your client that you have his/her best interest in mind and you're both in this together.
How should Cory's CSR have responded?
"I'm sorry but you should have bought a Mac. Goodbye."