Firing a customer may seem like a radical concept, but in the quest to provide excellent customer service and keep customers longer, sometimes something important gets lost in translation. When you have a particularly bad customer who is expecting too much for too little, eating up your time and resources, yielding no profits or benefits, and generally making you feel bad about the whole interaction, it’s not healthy for anyone. If that customer is, in essence, wanting your blood in exchange for the business relationship, it might be time to fire them.
Characteristics of Bad Customers Who Might Need to be Fired:
They Cost Money – The fact is, a client who is needy, doesn’t respect you, or is simply a wrong fit can be a money sucker too. If you spend a lot of resources putting out fires due to this customer’s actions or requests, you’re using up time and money that could be put to better use with customers who love and respect you.
They’re Not Your Ideal Customer – As you get used to targeting the right customer, you may find that some of your older customers just aren’t a right fit. They’re really not doing anything wrong, but they’re not really adding to your business in a positive way since they’re not the right customer. Letting them go makes room for more right customers.
Sunk Costs versus Opportunity Cost – Sometimes it’s hard to let go of a customer because of all the time you’ve already invested in them, and you hope that someday it’ll pay off. But the fact is, when you make any business decision, the thing you are supposed to consider is opportunity costs – not sunk costs. Sunk costs are those that you’ve already spent; opportunity costs are those that will happen in the future. If there are better opportunities out there, fire the customer and go after the right ones.
Too Much Emotional Investment Required – Some customers want you to be emotionally invested in them in a way that is draining. They require too much time and effort for the payoff due to their neediness. They expect you to be available at all hours of the day and night at their beck and call. That is an unreasonable and unrealistic expectation, and the rest of your customers will suffer for it.
They Want You to Share Their Risk – Some customers are really selfish. They want you to share their risk, but get none of the rewards. This type of client is dangerous to your entire business, because they’ll blame you when things go wrong even if it’s due to them not following your advice.
They Control with Fear – Some customers will threaten you to try to control you. They’ll say things like, “If you can’t handle it, I’ll find someone who can.” and other types of threats, both direct and veiled. They truly have no intention of firing you, but they like keeping you off balance. Get rid of these types of customers.
They Don’t Pay on Time – Sometimes you will have a customer that you actually like but they tend not to pay on time. Plus they use a lot of delay tactics. They may eventually pay, but having someone not pay on time can be very stressful and affect your cash flow. The best thing is to let these types of customers go after giving them sufficient warnings.
They Don’t Share Success – Some customers will freely share blame when things go wrong but when they experience success, even if directly related to what it is that you do, they will not share that. When you experience that type of customer, it’s best to let them go as soon as possible because you’re not going to get anything more out of the relationship than what you’ve already got.
Firing a really bad customer will leave room for more of the right customers. Anytime any one customer, even if it’s not totally their fault, makes you feel like you’re losing your mind or investing too much time and emotion for the payoff, it’s time to consider letting them go. You don’t have to say, “You’re fired,” but you can calmly and politely end the contract per your agreement terms. As with any breakup, it can be amicable and what’s best for both parties involved. When you finally do get rid of a bad customer who is causing you anxiety and stress, you will feel light a huge weight has been lifted and you will be more productive in your business as a result.