The customer is always right. Or are they? Have you ever had “that” customer? The one whose name popping up in your inbox (or on your phone) just makes you cringe?
Define your best customers — those who are most satisfied, most profitable and are enjoyable to work with — so you can nurture and attract more just like them. At the same time, define which customers cost your business time and make you frustrated.
Breaking up may be hard to do, but when a client is costing you money or making you crazy, it can be a smart move. As a small business owner, it is important to know when it makes sense to fire a client.
Some clients think we’re their bank: They ignore our payment terms and send in late payments. As every entrepreneur knows, cash flow is the lifeblood of any business, so when a client starts abusing the financial aspect of the relationship, it is time to let them go.
There is the Chronic Complainer: This is the client who never has anything good to say about you or your business. To them, you’re possibly too expensive or the service you provide is never good enough. This is the person who is often very demanding and cannot be satisfied.
Then there is the Time Eater: These clients make you feel like they want you to be at their beck and call 24-7. This client may frequently cancel or reschedule meetings.
Ask Yourself: Has this customer always been challenging? Chronically unhappy people rarely become satisfied people. It may be pointless exhausting yourself to please others. Does this customer mistreat your employees? If a customer is verbally abusive or harassing one of your employees, let them go!
The process of firing mismatched customers is not pleasant for either side and is to be avoided at all costs. If it has to happen, use tact, courtesy, and professionalism to keep your business name in good public standing. Discharging customers the wrong way can lead to bad news for your business. Customers talk, and word of mouth about bad experiences travels fast and far.
Be positive: Positive language in customer service can make your customers come away feeling more positive about the interaction, even if you’re delivering bad news.
Re-State the Situation: Never use statements that can be taken as personal attacks like “you’ve been asking for too much.” Instead, re-state the conversation to something that sounds more like this, “It seems like we haven’t been able to do our job to keep you as a happy customer.”
Apologize: When we receive an apology, we no longer perceive the situation as a personal threat. Tell your client that you are sorry that your services are no longer meeting their needs. You may want to suggest another company…but beware-they may end up being a bad client there also!
As small business owners, our biggest priority is to making our customers happy, successful and loyal. If you can do that, you’ll grow your business. This means you may have to get rid of the bad customers who sap your time and energy from being able to make the good ones happy.