Customer Experience News & Trends

5 customers you need to fire

Most customers are great. Some are OK. A few are tolerable. And even fewer need to go. Here are the five customers you need to fire – and how to do it tactfully. 

No one involved in the customer experience wants to give up easily on customers, especially after you’ve worked to bring them into your organization. But some customers aren’t worth the trouble they cause. They might berate employees, undermine your policies or sneakily cheat your company.

While nearly every tough customer deserves a chance to redeem him- or herself, repeated bad behavior toward employees and/or your organization will only hurt morale and the bottom line.

So here are the five customers you want to fire for the health of your organization, employees and experiences for good customers:

1. Annie the Abuser

She never has a kind word. She’s demanding and uses a loud voice and sometimes vulgar language to get noticed. She’ll even threaten to get what she wants, usually ending the sentence with, “I want this or else!”

It’s nearly impossible to please Annie the Abuser. She will suck the life out of employees who have to deal with her.

2. Wally the Wrecker

He won’t stop at wrecking one person’s day (like Annie might). Wally the Wrecker manages to bring down a whole group of employees with a few words. He might say bad things about the project a group worked on for him. He might cut up one employee to another. He consistently points fingers, spreads blame and causes problems within groups.

Wally will play employees and managers against each other in pursuit of a better deal or getting a leg up on every other customer.

3. Charlie the Cheapskate

Charlie always asks for a deeper discount, another freebie or some sort of special treatment – all at an extra cost to your company.

He’s good at threatening, too: He says he’ll leave for a better deal … but if you give him just a little bit better deal, he’ll stick around. He puts front-line employees on the spot, making them feel pressured to discount his purchases because – as Charlie claims – he’s “such a good customer.” Which, of course, he’s not.

4. Janice the Jumper

She expects front-line employees to jump through hoops to meet her expectations. Then whenever today’s need is met, she’ll expect different hoop-jumping tomorrow. She’s known for unreasonable and/or last-minute requests that put undue stress on employees and your operations.

Janice pushes boundaries, and it will exhaust front-line employees trying to please her.

5. Larry the Liar

He’s two-faced. He can exaggerate the truth, conveniently forget key details or flat-out lie to get what he wants. He doesn’t believe the rules apply to him – and if you insist they do, he’ll make up lies to work around the rules.

It’s difficult to satisfy him because he can quickly and effortlessly change everything on its head with another lie.

How to tactfully fire offending customers

When it’s time to part ways with offending customers, here’s how:

  • Keep it positive and appreciative. Don’t end relationships on a sour note (at least on your end). Thank customers for trying your products, working with you or experiencing your service. Start with, “We appreciate you giving us a try.”
  • Keep it professional. Don’t make the breakup a personal attack. Instead, focus on something(s) that’s documented and led to the situation you’re about to create. For example:
    • “You repeatedly requested X, and you were repeatedly dissatisfied when you realized we could provide Y,” or
    • “Your account history shows you changed specifications at least twice after every initial order, and at least four times you reported we missed something. It seems we can’t meet your expectations.”
  • Avoid personal comments. You don’t want to say anything that could be an attack on character, such as:
    • “You’re difficult to work with”
    • “You demand too much,” or
    • “You’ve lied to us.”
  • Make the customer the winner. Try to end the relationship with goodwill. Perhaps you can refund a fee, cancel a final invoice or give a bonus. You can make them feel like it was a good experience after all. Say something like, “You shouldn’t have to pay for an experience that didn’t make you happy. That’s why I’m going to issue a refund for this past month.”
  • Apologize. Your apology will prevent them from thinking they’re the wrongdoer (even if they were) and helps dissolve resentment. Try this: “We’d like to think we’re a good fit for everyone. But we weren’t in this case, and I’m sorry for that.”

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