The customer is always right.
Except, that’s really not true. Sometimes, the customer is not right. Sometimes, the customer causes massive headaches. Sometimes, it’s just not worth it.
Your business is not out to please everyone. If that’s your goal, you’re going to water down your product to fit the needs of the masses, and in the end, make nobody happy. In fact, you’ve got to be willing to alienate some customers in order to create raving fans out of others.
A single bad customer can practically destroy a business,” says Ken Gaebler, a small-business expert and head of Gaebler Ventures in Chicago. So, what do you do with that customer or client that you can’t please?
You fire them.
Seth Godin says, “Successful organizations (and I include churches and political parties on the list) fire the 1% of their constituents that cause 95% of the pain.” (link here) Consider what it’s really costing you to keep a difficult customer, realizing that some costs aren’t counted in dollars and cents. Sometimes, keeping a customer will cost you more than losing that same customer.
Who do you fire?
- Fire a customer who continually causes stress. Pursuing a dollar, at any cost, isn’t worth it. Abusive clients aren’t worth dealing with the accompanying stress.
- Fire a customer who continually wastes your time. If you’re a designer, and a client constantly requests revisions or asks you to go back to the drawing board, then he or she is devaluing your time and keeping you from focusing on others. You’ve got to decide how much is too much, but draw a line in the sand and don’t let people walk over you.
- Fire a customer who continually costs you money. Providing services without payment isn’t business…it’s charity. But unlike charity, you didn’t choose for this arrangement. Margaret Heffernan calls this the “headache ratio,” (link here) noting that a demanding amount of time might not be worth the increased revenue.
John Chisholm, writing on CustomerThink.com says you should tell a customer to take his business elsewhere when “the tangible and intangible costs of serving the customer outweigh the cash and any good will received from the customer.”
How to Fire a Customer
- Be clear. Simply let the client or customer know that your business isn’t a great fit and that we’ll no longer be working together.
- Don’t let emotions get involved. You don’t have to justify every one of your actions or get sucked into an antagonistic conversation.
- Move on. Focus on doing business the right way with the right people, and don’t get sidetracked trying to make everyone happy.