I was reading Seth Godin talking about What to do with special requests, and as I often do, related it back to my own practice to see whether I was doing the same thing or something different, and why.
When I was in the general insurance industry, clients with a poor claims record or high-risk properties were quoted higher rates and/or higher deductibles. Sometimes very high… but we tried not to say “no.” Sometimes clients would accept the rates or terms offered, and sometimes they’d just keep shopping and place their coverage elsewhere.
When I was in the Internet business, we specialized in providing connectivity in unserved or underserved areas. People would always call from outside our coverage area, and I was never too quick to decline. I used to tell people we could get them the Internet “anywhere — price may vary.” Again, customers would sometimes thank me and go away to think about it. And sometimes they’d request a detailed proposal because it was something they needed, even at a premium price.
Result? We were able to make a few sales at premium rates, and people who chose not to accept the offer went away without thinking there were things we just couldn’t do. There was at least an understanding that they had a difficult situation and we could deal with it… and even if they didn’t bite, they would still be good for word-of-mouth later, knowing that we could deal with difficult situations.
Lesson: arrange to let the customer opt out or exclude himself, rather than just saying “no” and telling them to go away. A “yes, but” will leave the choice with the customer, and keep them open for future business or referrals.