In our previous post we walked through different signs that it’s time to part ways with a client. The next step is knowing how to say goodbye. You don’t want to burn bridges and potential future network connections. And who knows, in a few years it might work out to bring them back.
So how do you go your separate ways without it ending like a bad breakup?
The Client Breakup
While you might not be feeling too thankful, remember the client took a chance on you. They tried out your brand, products, and took time to work with you as well. Show them appreciation for giving your company a shot. Even though it didn’t work out, it doesn’t mean that things need to end badly. Be grateful and thoughtful as you inform them of the breakup. Customer service is especially important in this situation, so keeping it as positive of an interaction as possible.
Plus, this has been an opportunity for your own company to grow and learn. Even though the situation hasn’t been ideal, it has made you wiser, and better prepared for the future. Those valuable learning moments are something to be thankful for.
Frame the Conversation
It’s not what you say its how you say it. For example, “I” verse “You” statements. When you address someone by saying “You didn’t do this,” or “Working with You isn’t working out,” your client is going to be defensive. Framing the conversation is vital. Once again, we will reiterate the need to keep the interaction positive. This might mean you will be placing at least partial blame on yourself. Here are a few examples:
“Requests that have been made are outside of our scope of services, so we have been unable to provide for your needs.”
“It seems we are not able to fulfill your orders to your specifications and keep you happy.”
They still have a sense of finality, that comes off gentler and respectful.
Keep a Paper Trail
Because coming to the decision to fire a customer is a difficult and well thought out one, there should be evidence to back it up. Keeping a record of specific incidents and reoccurring issues will make it easier to present the case to higher ups, and to your client. Use it as proof of how you have been unable to satisfy their needs. It will help support your reasoning for letting them go.
You’re releasing them from your company, give them alternative options of where to go from here. Yes, that could very well mean your competitors, but they already tried you and it didn’t work. By helping them find an alternative you’re building good will between the two of you. You never know what the future holds and being on good terms with past clients will make them more likely to work with you again if circumstances change. Or they might even refer others to you.
The business world is small. Even if the client is the worst person you have ever met, stay quiet about it. Don’t bad mouth them or talk negatively about the interaction in any of your circles. Not only is there a high chance it will get back to them, but it’s also going to defer other clients from wanting to work with you.
As a reminder firing a customer should be a rare circumstance. A last resort after all other options have been exhausted. Best practices include sending the final decision to higher ups. Leadership should generally be the one making the call, and the one having the conversation with the client. For more on firing a customer check out these articles from Hubspot and Groove.
Don’t forget that your clients are your lifeblood. They keep you going. When they succeed so do you. Always try to build and foster those positive relationships and work through the difficult situations together.