Customer Service: Look for Ways to Say Yes

4-H, like many large organizations can be difficult to navigate for the uninitiated. As can be expected of an organization more than 100 years old, we have a lot of rules, policies, and procedures, and adherence to those means sometimes we have to tell clients “no.” Imagine a volunteer or a 4-H member repeatedly hearing “no” on top of trying to navigate the ins and outs of our organization in their leisure time. As you can envision, it has the potential to become frustrating to someone who is choosing (not required) to take part in our organization.

What’s the easy answer?

Never say no.

Now, I’m only slightly jesting when I say that. As reported through Forbes magazine in their article: 4 Ways to Wow Your Customers one of the prime ways to deliver excellent customer service is to “never just say no.”

How does one do this?

Through a fairly simple four-step process:

  • Express sincere regret. “I’m really sorry, I wish I could make that happen but…”
  • Provide an explanation. “…we have a maximum capacity for this particular program based on classroom space.”
  • Offer empathy: “I hate that we aren’t able to do that for you…”
  • Finally, say YES!


Yes. Forget the “Just Say No” campaign for a moment, and let’s talk about just saying yes. When you must say no, counter it with as many alternatives as possible. Focus on what you CAN do for the client.


“No, I can’t fit one more person into day camp because we are at maximum capacity for our classroom space. I’m very sorry, but if you like I will be glad to place you on our waiting list. Also, in the meantime what I can do is offer you the first opportunity to sign up for some of our other summer 4-H programs.”

“No, we can’t let your six year old go to 4-H camp based on our policies for residential camp. I’m very sorry. It sounds as though she would love the experience. What I can do is help you get connected to our Cloverbud club where she can enjoy similar activities with other children her age. Can I tell you more about it?”

“No, I’m not available to judge your school science fair. I always enjoy the Science fair and I’m sorry I can’t help you out this year. However, I do have some excellent volunteers who might be very interested. May I pass this information on to them?”

“No, the County Council isn’t able to take a cruise to the Bahamas this year, as we must have an educational justification for participating in such. I’m sorry as that does sound like an awesome experience. What we could do however is look more deeply into this and decide how it might fit into our 4-H program, or look at some other possible field trip opportunities.”

Bottomline- it’s all about transforming yourself- the evil doing naysayer determined to steal your client’s joy into the client’s advocate who’s primary role is to help them solve their problems.

Yes, we all have to say (and hear) no sometimes. However, making the extra effort to truly connect with the client and help them find alternative solutions will go a long way in developing relationships with those who will help you grow your 4-H program.

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