Financial Sense…It’s okay to fire that customer!!!

Judy M McCutcheon

by Judy M McCutcheon

There’s often talk about the need for businesses to provide excellent customer service, because of the value it brings to a business.

Your customer service is your passport to customer retention and increased profits; therefore, your priority is to make raving fans out of your customers. A happy customer is one of your most effective marketing tools. However, there’s hardly any conversation surrounding the need for businesses to let go of some customers, and sometimes you need to do just that. I am not talking about customers who are challenging, but those who are downright bad for business. Some of your customers are going to be challenging. They are going to ask lots of questions, and demand a particular level of service, and they will tell you when they are not pleased; you should welcome these types of customers.

There is a store in the mall that is now one of my all-time favourites, but it didn’t start that way. What I really liked is that they listened to the voice of their customers. It’s not about wanting to let go of a customer at the first sign of a challenge, but working with that customer, so that there’s a win-win for everyone. Often times those same challenging customers help you to lift your level of service, thus increasing your profitability.

However, there are some customers that no matter what you do, no matter how you do it, they are never satisfied, and to top it off they are rude. Those are the ones I am talking about. I am also talking about those that do not make good economic sense for you, maybe because of their size. Let’s stick a pin here. Our society is rife with small businesses, as a matter of fact by global standards all our businesses would be considered small or medium-sized; therefore, when considering letting a customer go, you should put it into context. I do not subscribe to the expression that “the customer is always right,” and I also believe that not every customer is right for you. The wrong customer could actually damage your brand that you’ve spent a lot of money building up, so in order to preserve your brand, you may just need to let some customers go. You know there are some nightclubs or restaurants, where even the name gives you a feeling of elegance, and it’s a place where you’d want to be. Now, think about a nightclub where there are bar fights and men in caps with their undies showing. Can you imagine yourself in a place like that? That’s what I mean when I talk about damaging your brand; so, you want to ensure that you attract the customers that are right for your brand.

It’s not only “bad” managers that can make employees lives stressful, but “bad” customers can make your employees’ lives a living hell as well. If you have customers that are rude, abusive and unreasonable, then no matter how much money they bring into your business, you must let them know that certain behaviours are unacceptable; and if it comes to the point where you have to let them go, then you do that. The welfare of your staff is important, and they must feel that they have your support in matters like these, if not they will leave. Constant staff turnover signals that all is not well within your organisation and this too eventually serves to drive the right customers away. If that customer is one of your largest and it is not feasible to let them go, then you must formulate strategies so that you build your customer base in such a way that you are not totally dependent on them.

Customers are the lifeblood of your business, so your foremost priority is to ensure that they are happy and delighted with your products and services. In your quest to create loyal customers, you must ensure that you deliver, not just “customer service” but service that they’d want to talk about in a positive way. The majority of your customers are going to be great, but you will have those that are challenging and those that you may have to let go. It is important that you understand the difference between a challenging customer and one that you should let go. A challenging customer helps you to up-level your service, and you should welcome those customers because they let you know which part of your business is not working efficiently. Remember that not every customer who has an issue will complain, most just walk away.

It is critical that you weigh the options before letting go of a customer. Try working it out with them before you give them their marching orders. However, if you must let them go, be positive about it and let them know that you appreciated their business. Reframe the situation, don’t let the customer feel like it’s their fault. You take the blame and apologise for not being able to satisfy their needs and always give them an alternative. Never let the customer leave with a bad taste in their mouth. I guess in the end, it all comes down to service.

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Judy McCutcheon is a partner in the firm Go Blue Inc, a Human Development Company.

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