When to Break up with Your Customer

How to tell if a customer is worth the effort

The customer is always right is a slogan that began when customer service and modern retail stores were just coming into existence.

It was a helpful way to train someone in the 1900s who had no concept of customer service.

Now in the 2000s, we know that the customer is not always right.

Some customers can be unreasonable and sometimes downright dishonest.

You may have bent over backwards to get them to become a customer initially. Now that they are a regular customer, they may start taking advantage of you.

You have to ask yourself whether the relationship is beneficial or if it’s time to break up with your customer.

At some point, you have to talk to your customer about the problem. If you can’t reach an agreement, you might have to walk away.

They are not profitable

They say that 80% of your business will come from 20% of your customers.

It would also be true that 80% of your troubles will come from 20% of your clients.

The customer could be taking advantage of your return or trial policy. The customer could be taking up too much of your time. The customer may also not be willing to pay the full price.

After you run the numbers, you might realize that you are not making any money from your customer or worse, losing money.

You will have to discuss the problem with your client to make the relationship profitable. Try to meet them halfway where you increase prices over a few months.

But if all else fails, you can’t continue to make a loss on a client.

They don’t pay you properly

You get the client who consistently pays you late. There may always be a ‘legitimate’ reason, but you need to be compensated for the late payments. You aren’t their bank, and you shouldn’t be borrowing them money.

You also get the client who happily accepts the quotes but nitpicks the actual invoice once the service has already been delivered. They question the hours you bill for and even whether you really used the materials in the invoice.

If they think you are a crook or their bank, you need to move on and find better customers.

You’ve outgrown each other

As your business grows, you may be making better margins on newer clients. Some of your older clients might not be as profitable as before because you now have more overheads to manage a more extensive customer base.

You may no longer be able to give them the personal attention that they were used to.

It could also be that they have outgrown you and you are working day and night to keep up.

Be open with your client, and you might find that they value you enough to pay extra to keep you.

Your client may be open to paying you better rates so that you can give them personal attention or hire someone to help with the increased workload.

They take too much of your time

Some customers need too much attention. You want to try and give them as much attention as possible, but time is money.

If they take up more time than they pay for, they are in fact stealing.

They are either stealing from other clients of yours that you have to rush and spend less time on, or they are stealing your time that you could spend with your family or on finding new clients.

If this is the case, you need first try and get the customer to understand the situation. They may be open to paying for the extra hours.

If not, you have to draw a line in the sand to stop them from taking advantage of you.

They don’t respect you or your employees

Some people are toxic. They are challenging to work with and are a drain on your company. No matter how much money some clients bring in, they may not be worth the effort.

Clients shouldn’t be able to terrorize your employees or make them miserable.

People can only treat you the way you allow them to. You have to be clear to your client about what is acceptable behaviour and what isn’t.

You should try your utmost to see to your customer’s needs. Your role is to deliver a service and deliver it with a smile. Though at some point, the customer can become unreasonable.

They can be demanding, and sometimes they can be downright bullies.

If every time you see your customers number on your phone you start to tense up, it might be time to break-up

Very different expectations

Happiness = Reality — Expectations

Your client may have very different expectations compared to what you can deliver.

Clients that are new to your industry may not understand the industry norms, such as what is included and excluded.

If you have never bought a car before you may not think to ask whether it needs to be serviced and whether the service plan costs extra.

For any product you offer, there would be industry norms in terms of maintenance and defect ratios.

Take the time to walk a new client through how the process works to minimize the issues.

Though the client could also have unreasonable expectations of what is practically possible or possible within their budget.

If this is the case, then it’s best to end it sooner rather than later.

See it from their perspective

Try to understand your customer’s needs and expectations. If you were in their position, what would you do?

Your client may have been used to get more attention from his previous supplier or is under a lot of pressure.

You may have missed deadlines and thought it wasn’t serious, but it may have been to the client.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes before judging them. You might find that they were not that unreasonable in the first place.

Though there is no excuse for consistent bad behavior like late payments or abuse of your team.

Make sure you can afford to get rid of them

If you have a small business and a big client, you need to think carefully before acting.

You will have to analyse what it will mean for your business.

The best solution always comes from open communication. Try to resolve the issues. Some clients don’t realize that they are causing you pain or costing you money

If you have to let them go, see if you can’t cut back somewhere. If you have to give a terrible client notice, then use that time to find a replacement client.

Try to be careful in the future not to have a client so big that you can’t afford to lose them. It’s never great to be operating from a place of fear.

Make a clean cut

Check your contract and fulfil anything you promised to do, whether verbally or in writing. Give them reasonable notice, but it’s not necessary to go above and beyond for a bad client.

You can’t live in fear of a bad reference, or the cycle of abuse will never end.

If your client is abusive, you will find out that they are probably the same to their other supplies.

Remember that you must give them what you owe them and nothing more.

You are under no obligation to help a toxic client.

If you find out your boyfriend is a psychopath and want to break up with him, you don’t need to introduce him to 3 other potential girlfriends before you are allowed to leave him.

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