Should You Ever Fire A Customer?

Should You Ever Fire A Customer?

All throughout our business career, we’ve been conditioned to believe that “customer is king,” and we need to do whatever it takes to satisfy the customer.

Back in business school, more that a decade ago, a professor asked us “Should we ever let go a customer?” At the time, I didn’t understand the question because of my limited to no experience in business. But now that I look back, I realize that it is a question worth pondering over.

The short answer is, “it depends.” Depends on what?

It depends on the business you are in, and the amount of interaction you have with the client. For example, if you are a PR firm and you have to do business with a client who does not or is not willing to understand the PR process, or even worse is unethical, that could be a deal breaker.

But if you are a supermarket, then it’s very unlikely will you be intimately involved with the client.

Ideally, I try to work with every client possible. But sometimes, as a consultant, you have to pick your cherries.

We asked this same question to some of our readers, and this is what they had to say. Their responses below.

Questions we’ve been discussing:

Q. Have you ever fired a customer? If yes, why?

A. Vladimir Gendelman (CEO and Founder, Company Folders)

The customer is always right isn’t actually a great policy; following it to the letter can actually hurt your bottom line. In the long run, certain clients are more trouble than they’re worth. It’s not always easy to tell whether or not you should fire a customer, but there are several red flags you should be on the lookout for, if they take up too much of your time, when the work they’re asking you to do could damage your reputation, or when the work relationship is truly toxic.

A. Ike Paz

Yes, I’ve fired a customer before. My instructions were clear and concise yet the customer had several more requests that were above and beyond the advertised gig.

On top of that, the customer kept on referring to materials that I never received. Anyways, I had to fire that customer.

A. David Trounce (Content Marketing and SEO Professional)

I have had to let a few clients go in the past. The most significant was a big real estate agent in California. The main reason for firing the client was a combination of his continual shifting of the goals related to the search optimization of his website and his reluctance to pay a reasonable price for the services I was providing.

Most Agencies who provide SEO or marketing services have experienced clients who, not having a clear target in mind, tend to shoot from the hip in all directions at once. This client would request a complete over-haul of his site. halfway through, I would get a call asking me to shift all the new content to a new site which he wanted created. He then decided to split the content in to two sites… and on it goes.

This happened continually over twelve months. He would request optimized content,  I would write it, he would change his mind. The day I fired him was a happy day. I also learned to sit down with my clients and ensure that everyone in the room knew and agreed as to what the project goals were before we began working together.

A. David Leonhardt (President, THGM Writers)

Yes.  I’ve fired a customer for being passive aggressive. Once I was asked to prepare a couple of articles for a digital marketing agency, one for his own site and one for his client’s.  I asked specific questions and got specific answers.  It seemed like a dream client!

I write top-flight stuff, not the content-mill material that fills the Internet.  So I was more than shocked to get a comment back that he didn’t like the quality and would like them rewritten.

Naturally, I wanted to know what about the articles he didn’t like.

He did not know I was the writer.  He thought it was a member of my team, and to this day that’s what he thinks. His answer was that he didn’t like them, and can I assign another writer to rewrite them?

I asked again, what he would like changed, because otherwise another writer might make the save assumptions as the first one.

At this point, he made a couple of “suggestions”, including that one of the articles should not be based on what he had expressly asked it to be based on.  It was at this point that I knew he was bucking to get two article for the price of one.

That was our last communication.

A. Phil Turner (The Teaching Escape Guy)

Yes – I am a writer, the customer rejected a well-written and thoughtful article and wanted me to rewrite it as a gushing piece in praise of the ultimate client. I was not prepared to rewrite it. This was after a series of communication blackouts and payment problems, so that was the final straw.

Q. Did firing your customer affect your cash flow adversely?

A. Ike Paz

Firing the customer did adversely affect my cash flow.

However, at the end of the day it’s all about the time you have on this earth. Time is your most precious resource! Whenever something comes along that not only drains your finite time but also negatively impacts your life, you should then reevaluate your need for it.

You might have to cut it loose!

A. David Trounce (Content Marketing and SEO Professional)

Naturally, my cash flow was affected by the decision to fire him. At least, in the short term. Clients like the one I just described tend to have unrealistic budgets. They want a lot done for very little. So, even though it reduced my cash flow, it also resulted in me being a lot more particular about the SEO clients I took on in the future.

I raised my prices – which automatically put a lot of those kinds of clients out of my reach – and I started saying no to certain kinds of online marketing. I gave more serious thought to the clients I was most interested in working with. My mind and my time were now freed up to take on the clients that I knew I would have a passion for and whom I knew were serious and realistic in their expectations.

The result was a steady growth in client acquisition and profit margins. So much so that I could begin to close my books to new clients.

A. David Leonhardt (President, THGM Writers)

It did.  This was the beginning of what seemed like it would be a long term relationship.  But in the end, it would have been a very low-paying gig for all the time and effort to manage the client, so that time would be better spent in more profitable ways.  In other words, it cost money, but it might have ended up making more money.

A. Phil Turner (The Teaching Escape Guy)

Yes, it did affect my income, but I was happy to forego the income in order to keep my self-respect. There are some things more important than money.

I asked for and received extra writing jobs from another client I work with. These made up for the shortfall from the sacked client.

A. Minuca Elena (Minuca creates awesome influencer roundups that provide quality content, brings huge traffic, and helps bloggers connect with influencers.)

No. I soon got other projects that I wouldn’t get if I would have continued working for that client.

 

Learn to adjust. A service for which you had a high demand a while ago may not be popular anymore. The best thing you could do is continue learning and having multiple income streams. Expand your service offer. Also, if you are a newbie, you should spend your money wisely especially if you don’t have a steady income.

A. Shyam Bhardwaj

Yes. Firing customers always affect business commercially and that’s why such decisions are really hard. You can’t say NO to opportunities but if you feel the things will not move smoothly as you expect, it is better to deny for the task. If I am 100% successful with my clientele, I will get satisfaction which gives me +100% confidence for new clients.

A. Joe Balestrino (Founder and CEO of 4PointDigital)

I see the other side of this story. I believe the 80/20 rule and experienced it. Your couple of client accounts will be the major ones which drive most of your revenue. As a business owner, someone should identify those opportunities and encashing it. If you say yes to clients for all of their goals, which you think, are not feasible for you, you’re making a big mistake.

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Vinil helps brands achieve their marketing goals primarily through content marketing and experiential events. He presently lives in Bangalore, India after having lived in South Florida and Mumbai in the past. He loves the sunshine, beaches, and sports. You can connect with Vinil on Twitter @VinilRamdev or by email on vinil@zaang.org