working towards great client service

Clients like God- No “No” in their vocabulary. Is it right?

Huynh Hong Hai, creative copywriter of EDGE Marketing Vietnam Agency shared his experience in dealing with clients’ unreasonable requests. Hai said that “Clients are God because they pay for us, give us chance and money to live. Thus, ‘no’ is not the answer for our clients. However, it does not mean that we have to satisfy all of their unreasonable demands.” So why do we have to say no to the clients? How can we say no to them professionally?

In order to figure out answers for the tough questions, I had a meeting with Hai, a very young energetic, and passionate creative copywriter, with more than 3 years of experience in facing to different types of clients.

       “Saying ‘no’ directly is not a professional way”

As a person who is working in the communication field, you are the one who know the exact budget, deadline, ideas as well as the strategy to do a campaign. Unfortunately, your clients do not always understand the work that you are doing on. Some of them just  keep giving unreasonable requests such as reducing budget, changing ideas in the middle of the project, shortening the deadline, and so on. “Your mission is to find the happy and satisfied medium between the client’s requirement and your agency’s profit, in order to maintain the long-  term relationship with the clients and build up your agency’s reputation. Therefore, learning how to say no can make everything be easier and better.”, said Hai.

Why are we saying no to the clients? There are tons of reasons to answer for that question. “Some weeks ago, I had to write a copy to promote for man’s product. The copy was accepted by my boss and sent to the client. However, the client was very uncomfortable and she asked us to change the copy to her idea immediately. Nevertheless, our agency realized that her idea was just a nonsense sentence and it was not totally related to the product. Thus, we must say no to her idea”, Hai shared with me an unforgettable story that he faced to.

 “Some clients think they are always right and want us to follow their requests”

Another popular reason that makes you have to say no to the clients is that you do not agree with client’s ideas ethically (‘How to say no to your clients’ 2011). If your client wants you to work on something that makes you feel uncomfortable for whatever reason, the best thing that you should do is to ask them to find other people to do the work for them. Additionally, Sue (2001) also indicates that when the clients want you to apply a bad idea or strategy, or enforce to serve many requests in a short-term deadline upon you, you totally have the right to say no to them.

What kinds of clients are we dealing with? In most cases, long- term clients who trust and respect your ideas, then discussing any issues that may arise will be easier than the new ones. Nevertheless, if you still disagree with them in something, let think carefully before refusing them (‘How to say no to your clients’ 2011). If your agency and clients cannot come to an agreement with each other, will you accept to lose the long and loyal clients? Based on his own experience, Hai was willing to share that “Our agency rarely has to say no to clients whom we have worked with in a long time. It is because we all understand the values, interests and the needs of each other. Thus, I can freely discuss, and negotiate my ideas with them to have best results.”

Many people think that if the new client is big and potentially bring lots of benefits to the company, most people are willing to swallow their pride a little and let the clients have the right to decide everything (‘How to say no to your clients’ 2011). In this case, it seems to be true for most of companies in reality. “My agency sometimes agrees to reduce the budget with new big clients in order to build up relationship with them so far”, said faithfully Hai. Besides that, you are also not allowed to forget the new small clients. It is because if you think they will not bring in more business than the big clients; then saying no to them for any unpersuasive reason, they will let other people know that bad behavior. On the other hand, if you persuade and explain politely and professionally why you do not like their idea, they will give you great chance to PR your agency by using word of mouth (‘How to say no to your clients’ 2011).

Solomon (2008) states that remember to make no commitment without consultation. Even after you have discussed with your boss or colleagues, and try your best, you may still not satisfy your clients’ requests 100% what they want. So how do we say no to a client professionally? Come back to the above story which Hai shared with us about a difficult client with man’s product, he did not say no directly to that client. Additionally, Hai tried to discuss, negotiate, and collaborate to solve the problem together with his client. “I persuaded my client why her idea could not be fit with the product by putting myself in male consumer’s position”, said Hai. With a polite and professional way to say no, even difficult clients will feel they are respected and of course, they will accept your reasonable solution.


“We always try to drive clients’ ideas become our ideas by giving them reasonable and persuasive consultation instead of saying no”

Spencer (2010) in her article gives some tips for saying no to the clients as professionally as possible. Firstly, you must be honest with the client when you think that work is out of your ability. Don’t say an unqualified yes if you do not want to ruin clients’ trust and your reputation as well. Secondly, let give the clients choices when you overload with current project’s mission and deadline. Discuss and let the client know when you expect to finish current work and when you will be ready for more missions. Thirdly, develop a referral arrangement with a colleague when the client is too busy, and you cannot arrange your time to follow their schedule in the whole project. Give the client options by developing a referral agreement with a trusted colleague in the same field. In this type of agreement, each of you must have responsibility and support for the clients whenever they need. Last but not least, be firm but polite whenever you are not really sure whether or not you will be ready for that job. It is all right to set boundaries as to your availability and how much work you can handle.

It’s over the time when people think that clients are always ‘God’ and we- the PR practitioners as well as advertisers are the ‘pious sheep’, whom just know how to say yes and follow their requests all time. We totally have the right to say no to the clients whenever everything is out of control. However, let’s say no in a smart and polite way as much as possible, to keep the relationship with clients; maintain your agency’s reputation, and show off your professional communication skills.

ABOUT:  Huynh Hong Hai is a Professional Communication student, who is taking last semester at RMIT International     University Saigon South Campus. With high passion in communication industry, he used to work as a stylish writer for Hoa Học Trò magazine and some other teenagers’ online magazines. From 2009 to 2011, Hai worked as a  freelance for Doanh Nhân newspaper (Vietnamese Business newspaper). At the same time, he also worked as a copywriter for Codauchure website- of One World Connection Ltd. Co, which provides every information for the bride and the groom. Currently, he is a creative copywriter at EDGE Marketing Vietnam Agency.

Ho Chi Minh City, 9 May 2012

Posted by Nguyen Doan Doan Uyen


‘How to say no to your clients’ 2011, Inspirationfeed, viewed 6 May 2012, <>.

Solomon, R 2008, The art of client service, 2nd edn, Kaplan, New York.

Spencer, L 2010, “How and When to say no to a client”, Freelance Folder, viewed 8 May 2012,<>.

Sue, B 2011, ‘It’s okay to say no’, NETT, viewed 6 May 2012, <>.


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