Firing a Customer Part 1: When to Say Goodbye

If you’re one of the lucky people with experience in a customer service-oriented industry, then you’ve dealt with a wide variety of people. Some of them awesome unique people. The vast majority fairly average. And then there are those select few; the ones that made it a complete and utter nightmare.

From within those few there is that one you will never forget; because they would come in constantly. Each time you saw them you wanted to run and hide. They were the ones always causing trouble. Demanding refunds, or special discounts, then yelling at you in front of everyone for not getting their way. In the end a manager would have to diffuse the situation.

Knowing When it’s Time to Cut them Loose

Unfortunately, that kind of client still pops up in many industries. They make work difficult, draining your companies time and resources, and treat your employees abrasively. In these situations, you can reach a worst-case scenario where it might be time to “fire them” when no matter what you do you can’t resolve the issue.

Of course, this should only be utilized in extreme cases. It’s important to be able to differentiate between a customer that challenges you with difficult requests, and gives genuine feedback to make user experience better, versus a continuously negative customer.

How do you define a bad client? Sadly, there isn’t a hard or fast rule. Here are some things to take into consideration when deciding if it’s time to let them go.

1. They Don’t Align with Your Companies Mission

Most companies have a mission statement or a set of standards/values they follow. If your client no longer aligns with those values, consider if they are making you step away from your values to meet their needs. This doesn’t always mean you should fire them immediately. Consider if the situation will change or remedied.

2. Where’s the money?

If we are being honest, we know money is the lifeblood of any company. Therefore, if your customer is behind on payments, they might be using the resources they owe you on their own business. If that’s the case, it’s highly probable they aren’t doing well financially.

or…

Another thing to consider is if you are spending the majority of your time and resources on this one customer in an attempt to keep them happy. If all your time and energy is going into them, your other clients aren’t getting the full time and attention they need as well.

3. Unethical Practices

If your customer is involved in unethical practices and want you to be part you are going to want to step back from that relationship. You don’t want to get involved. It creates a liability for you and your company.

4. Toxic Treatment

Are your employees being run ragged? Does your client treat them poorly? Do they use fear as a motivator?

Nothing zaps morale faster than a customer who drags your team’s confidence down. Your workers will feel undervalued if nothing is done to remedy the situation. It can create a strained relationship with employees and management, even leading to your best employees leaving. It might only take a conversation with your client—who knows they could be having a bad day. However, if it never stops, it might be time to say goodbye.

Or if your customer threatens to slander your company on social media, review sites, and word of mouth. Is the relationship worth keeping?

In conclusion, this shouldn’t be a common place procedure. Firing a customer should be a rare event for extreme cases. Before terminating a relationship consider if there have been reoccurring problems with them. There is a big difference between someone having an off day, then someone who is consistently bullying your employees. Can better communication help resolve the issue? Always use careful consideration and facts when making this type of decision. And finally, take the issue, with a paper trail of bad behavior, to higher ups; let them be the deciding factor if firing a customer is the right move.

Firing a customer flow chart

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