Firing customers

In my ebook Mistakes: Avoiding the Wrong Decisions That Will Close Your Small Business I write about the importance of firing customers. You know the ones I’m referring to. They are never happy with your service or product. They are slow payers. They want to nickle-and-dime you on every transaction. Every time they call or come into your place of business you can feel your blood pressure going up. These are the people you want your competitors to serve so help make that happen.

In a previous business our service people had done some work for an individual. This person could be difficult, and after this particular job he came into the office yelling about the bill. He yelled at our office manager, cursing and insisting he would never do business with us again. When she told me about it she was close to tears. I told her if he ever called again to explain that we did not work for him any more.

A few months passed. I was in the office on a Saturday morning when he called needing a service call. I said that I was under the impression he was not going to use us anymore. He nervously laughed and said that he didn’t mean it, that he was just upset. I calmly told him that his behavior that day was not acceptable, that we would respond to his need today, but that if he ever acted that way again or spoke to any of our employees the way he spoke that day we would never work for him again. He was a model customer after that. There were other problem customers we simply told we were not interested in doing business with them again.

One of my mistakes that is addressed in the book is that I didn’t do that with these other customers sooner. The customer is not always right. We had some that cost us more than we ever made from them. Some nitpicked every job we did for them forcing us to redo things trying to satisfy them that didn’t need to be done. Others were slow to pay their bills requiring numerous contacts from the office before receiving payment. Every contact like that costs the company money. When we could have been serving other clients we were still trying to deal with the constant complainers.

I learned that it’s OK to tell a customer that you cannot work for them anymore. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen often, but when it does it’s OK. Sometimes losing a problem customer will add to your bottom line. It’s sure to reduce your stress level and make the work day go better.

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