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5 Psychological Reasons Customers Say No To You

Niraj Ranjan
Niraj Ranjan

Customer service is no longer a back-end operation, it has evolved into one of the most strategic areas for business success.

We now know for sure that customer experience can affect business and that customer service needs to be at the heart of your business model.

This infographic contains some interesting customer service statistics that'll make you think about your customer service approach.

If customers are not happy with the business, the customer service strategy has failed. To learn from the failure, it important to know the cause behind the customers unhappiness. That can only be done by understanding how customers think. Lucky for us, a whole lot of research has been done in that arena under the umbrella term of consumer psychology.

Psychology has made its way into every field, be it entertainment, culture or business. In business, it has branched out into different aspects:    

  • In recruitment, psychology is used in aptitude tests and career counselling.
  • Organizational culture is a big part of organisational psychology, i.e., the psychology of workspace.
  • Psychology helps factor in work stress and work-life balance, to ensure employees are healthy and productive.

Knowing a customer at a psychological level can help elevate the customer experience.

Understanding why a customer says no can tell you the difference between when “no means no” and “no means maybe”. At the least it can solve the mystery of why they say no.

Here are five psychological reasons that a customer says no: 

1. You Didn’t Appeal to Their Self-Concept

If the customer doesn’t feel ‘involved’ with the product, you haven’t appealed to their self-concept.

Self-concept refers to ‘the sense of being separate and distinct from others and the awareness of the constancy of the self’. It consists of the person’s past, present, future possible self’s along with the person’s self-schemas; meaning the things the person associates to.

This is why a customer-focused culture is important. If your marketing message doesn’t show how your product improves their life, and if you don’t have perks especially designed for them, and if you ignore their grievances and complaints, it means you have ignored their self-concept.

What you can do: Appeal to your customers self-concept to get their attention. Craft a marketing message that is dedicated to them. Creating the perfect marketing message isn’t as easy. Instead of talking about the company, you should focus on the customer. This means instead of saying “we’ve been in the business since 1932”, you should say something along the lines of “This product will help you in this way”.

By making the grand narrative about them, you can launch into a story about your product.

Related Article: How to Balance Customer Happiness with Employee Happiness

2. They Feel It’s Not Worth It – Buyers Remorse Might Affect Them

75 percent of Americans say they’ve made an impulse purchase. Nearly half of these shoppers had “buyer’s remorse” — that is, they felt guilty for having made the unplanned purchase.

Post Purchase Cognitive Dissonance (Buyer’s Remorse) is the phrase we give to the state of unease which exists in the customer's mind after buying a product or service. It’s when the buyer feels that the purchase wasn’t worth it.

Nobody wants to feel like they’ve made a wrong decision. The feeling makes them think twice next time around while purchasing. This is why they will shield themselves from sales pitches.

Here, the reason they say no is based on past experiences.

What you can do: Sales reps can tackle this by hearing out their uneasiness. You can make a loyal customer by being honest about your product. This way, they won’t feel like it’s an impulsive buy.

Appeal to their rational side. Tell them what your product is, what it does, how it benefits them - so that they know they are making the right decision.

3. Selective Perception Stops Them From Caring

Selective perception is perceiving what they want to, in media messages while ignoring opposing viewpoints. It’s a type of cognitive bias something that stops people from thinking rationally.

As an example: John is a fitness buff who loves eating healthy and cycling to stay in shape. However, John smokes cigarettes too. On his Facebook newsfeed, he sees a post about a new Healthy Living book. Below that, he sees a post about the harms of smoking. He decides to purchase the healthy living book but completely forgets about the post related to smoking. John just engaged in selective perception.

What you can do: Marketing is essentially a modification of perception. Your customer might be seeing things from their frame of reference and refusing to budge on it. Getting the marketing message past their internal filters is the first order of business. Find a way around their filter by taking a detour. Approach the customer from an angle that they care about.

The best way to know what they care about is by listening to them. Here is how you can get their feedback:

  • Surveys
  • Customer Forums
  • Social Media
  • Communities 
  • Email and Web Forms

4. They Don’t Feel Like They Need It – Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory

Maslow’s theory suggests that we have a pyramid of needs. One level needs to be completed to get to the next. At the bottom is basic physiological needs like food and shelter. At the very top is self-actualization– a spiritual level that very few are said to be able to achieve.

The pyramid looks like this: 

Most people fall under the in-between three categories of the triangle. One of the reasons a customer says no is because they feel no perceived need for your product.

If your brand sold expensive watches, that would come in the ‘Esteem’ category. The customer could say no because maybe they are still in the ‘Safety’ category of the triangle and are concerned with buying products like house alarms.

What you can do: Prove to your customers that they need you. Convince them by asking the right questions. If we take life insurance as an example, everyone should be buying it! Everyone has the need for this because 100 percent of us are going to die. Yet, some of us don’t see the need.

If young parents tell the insurance salesperson they don’t need life insurance, he should ask them, “How will your child be taken care of financially if something happens to you both?” The same type of question should be asked for any product or service.

5. They Are Facing a Paradox of Choice

One perk of a capitalistic society is that we have choices. A business assumes that people like choices. If I had a choice between 50 different types of shoes, I’d be happier is what conventional wisdom tells us.

The truth is a bit different. When people are presented with too many choices, they get overwhelmed. This makes them less likely to purchase anything.

In 2000, a remarkable study on this was published. On one day, shoppers at an upscale food market saw a display table with 24 varieties of gourmet jam. Those who sampled the spreads received a coupon for $1 off any jam. On another day, shoppers saw a similar table, except that only six varieties of the jam were on display. Regarding purchase, people who saw the large display were one-tenth as likely to buy as people who saw the small display.

This could be a reason for a customer to say no. They could feel swamped by the choices they are presented with.

What you can do: It wouldn’t be right to say don’t have too many choices. It rightly feels like counterproductive advice. Instead, zero in on the kind of product your customer would enjoy.

In other words, find the best fit for your customer. Ask them questions about how they want the product to be. After factoring that in, provide them with the most suitable choice.

Related Article: The Psychology of Creating Repeat Customers for Your Business


Customer psychology teaches us a lot about the way customers behave. It can’t be taken as gospel but should rather be treated as insight.

Psychology and marketing go hand in hand.  Marketers can benefit from the vast amount of surveys and research that psychologists have done, and continue to do in this field.

Image Credit: NanoStockk / Getty Images
Niraj Ranjan
Niraj Ranjan Member
Niraj is the founder of Hiver (, formerly GrexIt, an app the lets you share Gmail labels with other Gmail users. Niraj works on programming, customer support and sales, and also contributes to design and UI. He’s a fusion music aficionado, loves to play the guitar when he can.