6 Times When You Should Fire A Customer

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There’s nothing quite so delicious as deciding to fire a customer that you really dislike.  And when you finally do it, you realize that you should have done it six months earlier.

When I first started this gig (20-ish years ago) I realized at the end of year one that I had assembled a dog’s breakfast of terrible clients.  I had some good ones too, but I did some housecleaning and dramatically increased both my earnings and my peace of mind.  More on that to follow.

So, here are 6 good reasons to say goodbye to a customer.

When they cause you (and your team) lots of brain damage

If you go home at night again and again worrying about an unreasonable customer and their demands and emotional pain, it’s time to fire a customer.

Pareto’s law really applies here.  20% of your customers (or less) cause you 80% of your stress.  And I’m guessing that the same 20% contribute very little profit, don’t refer you to others, and help your staff decide to leave to work somewhere else.

On the flipside, likely 20% of your customers account for 80% of your profit.   Those are the ones to concentrate on.

When your values don’t align

This may include a customer who is willing to take ethical short cuts, or who just doesn’t see things the way you do.  Maybe they think your staff (and theirs) are expendable minions.   Maybe quality isn’t important to them but it is to you.

Whatever the cause, fire a customer and find someone who is a fit for you.

When they don’t appreciate your brand promises

Brand promises are simply the things that differentiate you from your competitors.  If they don’t value what you bring that’s special, find someone who does.  There are more fish in the sea.

When they aren’t profitable

I remember one of my first clients.  They were nice enough people, but they were all wrong.  They had very little vision for their business, weren’t able to implement my recommendations, and (as a result) were on a shoestring budget.   I remember them calling my office asking for a discount for our morning together because we ended ten minutes early.  Over a three-hour session.

I raised my prices (firing them the nice way – it’s not you, it’s me) and found someone who I could help, and who could both appreciate me and afford me too.

When you aren’t bringing value to the table

When I end a relationship with a client, this is most often why.  I just don’t think they need me anymore.  In which case it isn’t right or ethical or satisfying or fun to stay around a pull a cheque.

If your product or service isn’t helping, end the relationship.  If you don’t, they won’t be happy, you won’t be happy, and they won’t refer you to anyone else.

When things are headed in a bad direction

If the relationship is in decline and doesn’t seem fixable, consider ending it before it really turns sour.  This is a great time to fire a customer There are a number of ways to accomplish this in a face-saving way.

These ways include:

  • Raising your prices (maybe they’re worth keeping if they’ll pay more?)
  • Referring them to someone else (it’s not you, it’s me)
  • Providing an excuse (we’re headed in a different strategic direction)
  • Having an honest, straight forward professional discussion
  • Giving them a plan for moving forward that doesn’t include you

Fulfil your commitment, don’t lie, and most important, don’t vent your negative emotions to the customer.  Be professional and move on.

You’ll find that when you work with the right people, the value of your brand will increase, you’ll make more money, and you’ll be a lot nicer around the dinner table at night too.

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Trevor Throness is a speaker, consultant, and author of “The Power of People Skills.”  He is also co-founder and senior instructor at www.professionalleadershipinstitute.com https://www.professionalleadershipinstitute.com/

Find more about “The Power of People Skills” here: https://www.amazon.com/Power-People-Skills-Dramatically-Performance/dp/1632651068

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Written by Trevor Throness
Trevor is a veteran coach, keynote speaker, and the author of the book “The Power of People Skills” released by Career Press NY in 2017. He’s also written for or been featured in places like Forbes, Inc, The NY Post, The Globe and Mail, Entrepreneur, CEO Magazine, and numerous podcasts and interviews.


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