8 signs it’s time to fire a bad customer and how to do it
Building customer relationships is a big part of your long-term business growth.
Your partnerships reflect your brand and your services, which is why you must do your part to respect your customers.
If your customers don’t return the favor, you have the power to take action.
This article explains why you should end a customer relationship, how to change it, and how to end the partnership.
8 reasons why it might be time to end a customer relationship
A key part of the business is your ability to read customers, their motivations and how they treat people with respect.
Below are some situations in which you should reassess your relationship with the customer and initiate a change.
1. The customer takes more time than it’s worth
You are an expert in your industry and you know how much your time is worth. If the time spent with the customer is wasted and unproductive, it may be time to move on.
Working with a bad customer also comes with an opportunity cost. Investing extra time in a customer that is draining your energy will impact your quality in other parts of the business.
Every customer is critical and should be valued. However, they have a solid idea of how much each customer is worth.
Here are some examples of how a lousy customer could be wasting your time:
- Show up to meetings unprepared.
- Unwillingness to commit to a plan, delaying the workflow process.
- Destroy all your ideas.
- It takes a long time to answer emails, questions or services.
2. The customer continuously shoots down your recommendations
The client hired you for a reason: to make them successful. Even though the customer knows their business, they have signed a contract with you to provide actionable insights for their business.
You invest your time in helping the customer achieve their goals. However, the client could delay the process by continuously rejecting your ideas, recommendations and results.
Yes, disagreements between a customer and a company are common. However, it should be mutually agreed that both parties will work it out and align towards the overall goal.
Sometimes the customer might not see this and let other factors get in the way.
3. There is little respect between you and the customer
Respect is the basis of every business relationship. When there is trust between the customer and the company, you can innovate and achieve great things.
However, the relationship can turn sour if either party breaks the respect. No respect means no trust, and no trust means your goals will be difficult to achieve.
If the client doesn’t respect you, they won’t trust your work. So it might be the right time to move on.
Always show respect, but you should reevaluate the relationship if the customer doesn’t return the favor.
4. There is minimal communication between you and the customer
When you and the client begin your relationship, you should agree on a primary communication channel. Will you best communicate with the customer via phone, text, email, or online messaging?
You should also set parameters for an acceptable time frame to reply to a message. Emergencies can arise, but both parties should agree on a good time slot.
If either party cannot meet their obligation to communicate, a check-in interview should take place. If things still don’t get better, it’s time for both sides to go their separate ways.
5. The relationship isn’t progressing
A solid business relationship will continue to grow as both parties learn more about each other. If there is a cultural or value fit, the relationship should thrive. Trust should be built up between the parties and better ideas should flow.
If you’ve been working with the client for several months and don’t see any improvement in communication, it might be time to move in a different direction.
As the relationship continues, try to identify the best communication channels for you and the customer.
Determine how and when they communicate best and tailor your messages to that channel. If you still don’t see better workflows, you should talk to the customer.
6. The client has a pessimistic attitude
You become what you think about. When the customer constantly projects negative vibes into your working relationship, it becomes difficult to achieve your goals. Your customer relationships reflect your brand.
Yes, it’s normal to get stressed, but that pressure should never negatively impact your relationships.
You can do your part to spread positivity. However, if the client shoots down your encouraging words, it can demoralize your work. You may not feel motivated to do your best quality work for the client.
7. You lose money with the customer
Even though you’re running a “relationship business,” it’s all about dollars and cents. If the time you spend with the customer isn’t yielding profitable results, it may be time to part ways.
Whether it’s a waste of time or minimal winning results, evaluate why you’re losing money.
Engage with the customer to improve the relationship and achieve those goals. If you still don’t see results, it’s time to end the relationship.
8. The customer is verbally abusive or makes demands that you cannot meet
If a customer verbally abuses you, abuses you, or demeans you in any way, it’s time to let them go. It’s best to do this sooner rather than later to avoid setting a precedent. There is no reason for you to tolerate abuse in any form.
When a customer makes unreasonable demands that you can’t meet, or berates you for not being able to meet them, it’s time to move on.
There are some people you can never make happy, and the sooner you end this relationship, the better off everyone will be.
How to change the relationship
Now that we’ve listed red flags to look for in bad customers, here are some strategies to fix, improve, or change a relationship.
Assess your perspective
You could take a step back, take a deep breath, and realize that not everything is the customer’s fault. When you experience a lot of stress while running a business, it can cloud your view of your actions and emotions.
Self-reflection never hurts, so take a minute to reflect on your relationship with the customer.
See if there’s anything you can do on your side. Then plan a conversation you can have with the customer to change the situation.
Discover other communication methods
If things don’t work out with the customer, a different communication channel or style can make a difference.
Would it be beneficial to set up a weekly or bi-weekly check-in meeting? Should you communicate via SMS instead of email?
Exploring other ways of engaging with the customer could make your information delivery clearer and more efficient.
Start a new agreement
If your contract with the customer is about to expire and they are considering renewing, you might consider entering into a new contract. Start fresh and set new boundaries with the customer to build an efficient working relationship.
Perhaps a different game plan could unleash new possibilities and ideas within your relationship.
How to end the relationship with the customer
If you’ve tried to mend the relationship and nothing works, here’s how to professionally end the relationship with the customer.
Step 1: Evaluate the contract
Before ending the relationship with the client, determine if you can legally fire them.
However, it is better to end a relationship at the end of a contract than to cut ties in the middle.
Step 2: Summarize the current projects you owe the customer
Another way to show professionalism is to complete all upcoming projects with the client.
Confirm which services the customer still needs and which you should complete. Continue to work efficiently with the customer to complete these projects.
Don’t let your ending relationship affect the quality of your work. Even though your relationship is ending, you don’t want the customer to speak ill of your business to others.
Step 3: Plan your conversation
As you approach the customer, explain why the relationship is ending. Cite the terms of the contract that govern your decision and act professionally.
Here are some more tips for planning the interview:
- Write down your topics of conversation.
- Practice the conversation.
- Visualize the conversation.
- Be tactful but direct with the customer.
- Have a clear and reasoned reason for ending the relationship.
Step 4: Tell the customer
There are several ways to get the message across to the customer. You can professionally email them and explain the reasons for the termination.
Or you could set up a meeting with the customer to tell them over the phone. Either way, stick to your plan and show the customer the respect they deserve.
Step 5: Don’t let the customer down
It’s bad business to keep the client in the dark after the relationship ends.
Outline a clear exit or transition plan, identify the outstanding projects that need to be completed, and fulfill your commitment.
Because you’re running a business, you’re in charge. This decision-making applies to the clients you work with. If either party doesn’t live up to their end of the deal, it’s time to explore other options.
Always show respect to the customer and do your part of the business. You should also try to understand the customer before communicating with them. Apply these principles when dealing with a problem customer and keep doing meaningful work.
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