Customer Experience News & Trends

7 customers you want to fire in 2016

Firing customers might seem unthinkable. But giving the boot to some customers could actually help your bottom line.

Not to mention the positive effects it could have on the morale of the people who have to deal with your most difficult customers throughout the year.

“When you disconnect your business from … toxic energies, your employees will be happier, you’ll be happier, and everyone will be able to focus their time and energy on more productive, more rewarding tasks,” says Michael Houlihan, author of The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways to Engage and Empower Your People.

Of course, you don’t want to just drop customers who annoy you with occasional complaints or make a loud fuss from time to time. In fact, customers who point out inconsistencies or errors are often your most loyal, profitable customers: They complain because they care.

But a smaller percentage of customers can be troublesome, Houlihan says. Here are seven customer types you’ll want to consider letting loose in 2016. Doing so can give your customer experience professionals more time and a fresh positive attitude to help your loyal and new customers.

1. Abusers

These customers seldom have a kind word. They use demanding — and sometimes vulgar — language.

“I find that a popular phrase with Abusers is always ‘or else,'” says Houlihan. “They yell at you or your employees that you better do such and such or else.”

It’s unlikely that you’ll ever please them, and they’ll keep sucking the life out of your front-line employees.

2. Unhappy campers

You and anyone who has contact with these customers might deliver great work time and again, and unhappy campers will still find something wrong. They complain constantly and are never satisfied.

“Unhappy Campers may not be the worst clients on your list, but they can be exhausting,” says Houlihan.

It’s tough for front-line employees to remain positive when Unhappy Campers are never happy.

3. Pot stirrers

Forget wrecking one person’s day. These customers manage to bring down a whole group of employees with a few words. They will say bad things about one employee to another or cut apart the work an entire team did.

“If they can play everyone against each other, they think they may be able to work out a better deal or keep everyone scared enough that they’ll do everything they ask,” Houlihan says.

Front-line employees know not to point fingers at colleagues — instead they take responsibility and find solutions. However, Pot Stirrers will point fingers, spread blame and cause problems.

4. Cheapskates

They always ask for a deeper discount, extra promotion or special treatment at a cost to your company. They threaten to leave for a better deal. And just to keep them, you might already be giving them discounts that aren’t profitable for your organization.

“Of course, it’s okay to give clients a discount here and there,” says co-author Bonnie Harvey. “But Cheapskates have no problem bleeding you dry.”

Cheapskates often make front-line employees feel like their feet are being held to the fire, which isn’t good for morale.

5. Hoopsters

These customers expect front-line employees to jump through a hoop to meet their expectations. And when one expectation is met, they hold up an even smaller hoop, waiting for the next best thing to happen. They often make unreasonable or last-minute requests that put stress on employees and processes.

“You might be able to rein them in by setting boundaries—for example, ‘no changes can be made within 24 hours of a deadline’ — but if they repeatedly breach those boundaries, it might be time to pass them on to your competition,” Houlihan says.

Front-line employees will become exhausted working with these customers.

6. Sponges

They think they’re your only — or most important — customers and will suck up all the time they can from your front-line employees. They call, email and post on social media constantly. They might even request many meetings from salespeople.

“You put much more into your interactions with Sponges than you get back,” says Harvey. “They eat up valuable time with unimportant tasks and worries that keep you from servicing other, more profitable clients.”

7. Liars

Some customers are two-faced. They will exaggerate the truth or conveniently forget key details to get what they want. They try to change or work around rules that govern your customer relationships.

“You never know where you stand with these kinds of clients,” says Houlihan. “And that can cause a lot of unnecessary frustration and confusion. It becomes difficult for you to make the right decisions for them. You end up constantly second-guessing yourself or wondering when they’re going to turn everything on its head.”

Here are tactful strategies for firing customers who are a drain on your business.

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