It’s Not That You Can’t, It’s You Won’t

Have you ever told a customer you “can’t”? Have you told them you can’t add that product with their order. You can’t do next day shipping. You can’t add a particular feature? You can’t give them an extra week of consulting for free. You can’t upgrade them to first class for free. We tell customers often that we can’t do things, but the reality is we can. Telling customers we can’t is bullshit, because in most cases we can, we just won’t.

Can’t is definitive, it’s absolute, it is incapable of being done. Rarely does a customer ask us to do something that is impossible. So, if it’s possible then; it’s not that we can’t, it’s we won’t.

Can’t is our way of saying we don’t want to do something, with out having to take ownership for the decision. That’s unfortunate, because we need to take ownership. Won’t is not always a bad thing. I won’t work for free and I’ll tell a customer that. What is important is understanding why we won’t do something. Saying won’t forces us to be clear about what it is we are doing. It helps us be clear on why we won’t do somethings and why we will do others.

Saying can’t is rigid and inflexible Saying you won’t is being honest. If you won’t seat me and my friends at your restaurant at 9:00, because you close at 9:00 that’s OK. You have that right. Just don’t tell me you can’t, because it’s not true. You can, you just won’t. And the next time my friends ask me to go to your restaurant, I won’t lie and say I can’t, I’ll be truthful and say; I won’t.

How often do you say; I can’t when you can . . . you just won’t?