When a Customer isn't Right for you

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Customer or client relations are an important part of your business, if one desired outcome from your effort is to grow your sales and turnover. You may feel the way to do this is both to increase the numbers and sustain the interest and buying activity of your customers.

However, if you also believe that the 'customer is always right', this may turn out to be counter-productive. If the customer isn't right for you this may become a liability. Your management and practice in customer relations may therefore also include methods and processes which review and seek to minimise the liability even to the extent of getting rid of a customer, if the relationship with them can't be improved.

Customers may choose at any time to stop trading with you, and concern for good customer relations is there to discourage them from doing this, as you seek to retain new or good customers. Concern to remove customers you could do without is a less obvious part of customer relations, nevertheless should perhaps be a component!

What's the evidence that a customer might not be right for you and your business? Here are some examples:

  • The customer is always complaining about the price, or the quality, of your goods or services.
  • Orders or purchases are small, infrequent, over-demanding, or increasingly inappropriate in relation to the direction you want your business to go.
  • Demands on you or your employees time or effort are disproportionately overwhelming, unwelcome and sapping of your energy and morale.
  • The customer is a consistently bad payer, requiring disproportionate 'chase-up' energy and effort to get payment.
  • The customer is not a person or business that you feel you want to relate to or do business with!

You have a choice - continue to put up with the customer, making the effort to keep them with you, whatever the cost - or get rid of them. Either way, in your review of the situation, check firstly that their behaviour isn't down to issues or faults which are actually within the behaviour of you and your business! If however, you're sure that they are the problem, then you need to lose them.

Now, you need to make sure that alongside any action by you, there is also a concern for damage limitation - doing the unhappy deed with as much care and sensitivity as possible. It is difficult to win this one - there is no likely 'win-win' situation, unless you can persuade your undesirable customer to happily go and bother a competitor for whom you have no affection!

In the long run, though, the most important thing to keep in mind are the possible benefits of losing a bad customer:

  • You will have more time to spend developing customer relations and trading with 'good' customers.
  • You will possibly gain better margins and cashflow, and more time for doing the more necessary things.
  • You will improve your own and your employees' morale and wellbeing - no longer dreading the 'knock on the door'!
  • Maybe the undesirable customer will have learned, reflected and changed. Otherwise, it's someone else's problem…