In our work with small businesses, we see all kinds of small business clients. They are as diverse as their ideas. Some are great. They work hard, do their “homework” and respect the time and expertise we use to assist them.
Others … well, not so much. They may be over-demanding, disrespectful of our time or unreliable. They may fail to show up at the appointment time, expect us to do everything for them instead of learning to do something themselves or simply waste our time in what engineers sometimes call “scope creep” – following rabbit trails and getting lost on tangents.
So, we talked the other day about how sometimes we need to “fire” a client. You may have the same experience in your business. Do you ever feel like you need to “fire” a customer?
Perhaps a customer is too picky, fails to pay on time, is never satisfied, doesn’t return calls or calls all the time. Is there someone who is more trouble than all of your other customers put together? Is there someone in whom you invest untold hours and unlimited energy in return for few or very low sales? Perhaps the best thing you can do is help them find another option for their business.
But wait, you say, right now every customer is necessary – absolutely necessary! Agreed. Every customer is important, but particularly now. Unless…
“Bad” customers can sap your energy and your positivity. Dealing with difficult people takes a toll on your emotions and your mental energy. It takes a similar toll on your employees. They start angling for ways to avoid the customer. Their attitudes suffer. And as a result, the rest of your “good” customers receive less than stellar service themselves. When you assess the actual cost of keeping this customer around, you will likely decide it’s time to let him go and reclaim the time you had dedicated to trying to keep him happy.
But how to do it? Start by setting boundaries. Firmly limit the time you will spend with the customer. Remind the customer that you have other demands on your time and that you have other customers to serve. If the customer is relying on you for regular service, tell him toward the end of the next project or cycle that he will need to find another vendor for the service. Give 30 days’ notice. You might actually make a referral for the customer to another business that might be better able to suit his needs. (But warn the other business owner about the potential challenges with the customer.)
Whatever you do, don’t get personal. There is no need to cite the list of the customer’s annoying habits. Just simply say that you no longer have time in your schedule to serve him.
You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes. You no longer have to dread hearing from your “fired” customer. He has become someone else’s issue. And you have time to replace him with others whose business really will help you bottom line.