How to Just Say No

How to Just Say No - The Community Manager“A customer requests a feature you’re never going to add (doesn’t fit with product, won’t increase sales, whatever). How do you respond?”

This came in from the super-talented and brilliant product mind of Leah Culver. It’s a specific question—but one that comes up over and over again for community and support folks.

I think there are a few rules of thumb to apply when responding.

First, anyone communicating with your users should be on the same page for these responses.

Support, community, marketing, PR and product managers should all have generally the same response in these situations. I’ve found a great way to accomplish this is to have an internal FAQ, which includes major feature requests, as well as a document covering voice and tone. This keeps your team’s external message consistent. You never know when a support ticket gets added to a blog post with a gazillion readers.

Second, never say never.

There are countless times I’ve told a user, or bunch of users, that a feature is never going to happen, and six months later someone changes her mind and it gets prioritized. (Likewise, never promise anything not already tested and ready to ship.)

Finally, make sure you fully get what they are trying to accomplish with their request and why.

Find out what problem they are trying to solve. This ensures they feel listened to and understood. It also gives you further perspective and product feedback. And ultimately in saying no, you still want to help solve their problem.

So how to respond to people requesting extremely unlikely features? There are a few techniques to letting people down gently when denying their requests:

Offer a workaround.

People want to embed your product somewhere it’s not supported? Explain how to take a screenshot and hotlink it.

Find an external tool that can integrate with your product.

They want you to add Facebook comments to your blog product? Let them know they can integrate other comment products that allow Facebook sign-in.

Find an alternative product.

This is best for major features you are least likely to implement, or you think are years away. Let them know, “Hey, we might not be the right fit for you now, have you checked out other-product-A?”It may seem counterintuitive to send someone to a potential competitor, but ultimately that user will remember you taking care of them, and will be much more likely to give you another chance if the situation comes up.

There will be a small number of requests that fall into the “never gonna happen” category—like rolling back a redesign, for example. In these cases, your best bet is to acknowledge their request, try to understand where it comes from, and set realistic expectations.

How have you handled saying “No” to a community member or customer?


Photo cred: gaptone via Compfight

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About the author

Laura Gluhanich

I love meeting people working on community at startups. I work full time at, am cofounder of Signal Camp and an advisor at Planwise. In my free time I love climbing, going to concerts and wine.