When Should You Fire A Customer?
Nothing drags down the tone in an office, sucks energy out of your people, and robs your bottom line like an unsuitable client.
Already you can think of one or two customers that drive you bananas. What’s interesting is that your picture of an unsuitable, irritating, nausea-producing patron may be the ideal client for one of your competitors, and their nightmare of a client may be a wonderful match for you.
So, if these folks are making you so miserable, why are they still around?
There are several reasons. The most obvious is that clients equal money. In turn, you feel money equals success, self-esteem, survival--or all three. The customers may be friends or family. Maybe you are afraid that turning these patrons away will cause others to look down on your firm. Or maybe you think these people are truly nice folks, and the problem is your own. For some reason, they just drive you batty.
Okay, if you are just starting out (measured in months or years, depending on the type of business), then I can understand that you may need to keep all the clients you can. This is especially true in these economic times. But even new firms need to draw the line somewhere.
After all, life is too short to drive into work every morning expecting misery.
Each of us needs to determine if a customer is a mismatch. Do their expectations of your product or service exceed what you can deliver or think is reasonable? Do your two personalities just naturally clash? Will providing the level of care they want not be cost-effective or time-effective? Is accommodating them creating emotional stress? Are they exasperating your staff?
If any of this is true, it is time to do some soul-searching. While it is possible that cutting the strings may be a good idea, examine the situation closely first. Look again: is this just one client? Or more?
If the number of so-called “problem” clients is spreading like a rash, it may be time to determine the cause, rather than rushing to throw in the towel.
Is there is a particular service that routinely causes your employees stress? They may be projecting their struggle with the process to the clients. Might changing your operation flow or updating your equipment take the pain away?
Are you getting complaints about certain clients from just one employee? Consider that someone else in the office may get along great with these customers, creating a better fit for all concerned. Maybe the change needs to start with you and your company.
In other words, instead of firing the client, there may be something you can do that would make both of you happy. This is not always the case. If the relationship is still strained, if there is nothing you can or want to do that will make things better, then please--for the sake of you, the problem client, your other clients, and your staff--cut loose your difficult customers.
When you do, you’ll find that you have more energy and more focus. You will be a better boss to your employees and a better firm to your customers. But that’s not where it ends.
For, in the most part, those problem clients can be found-out before they hire you. Take the time to examine your marketing and intake processes to see what can be done to attract the clients you enjoy working with and filter out the ones you don’t.
You’ll be thankful that you do.
This article was published in the Wichita Falls Times Record News Biz to Biz March 2011 edition.
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