As a small business owner, you spend countless hours strategizing how to attract customers, not how to get rid of them. But as Shep Hyken, international customer service speaker and author of The Amazement Revolution: Seven Customer Service Strategies to Create an Amazing Customer (and Employee), explains, voluntarily saying goodbye to a customer can sometimes be the best thing for your business.
“Most people are afraid to fire a customer; they are worried about the loss of revenue,” he says. “But in reality, keeping some customers can lead to much bigger losses for your company in the form of extra time and decreased employee morale.”
When to do it
Customers who are blatantly disrespectful to your employees are worth pink slipping. “I once had a customer that was so mean to my assistant that he made her cry,” he says. “That was it for me.”
Extreme price pushing is another reason to fire a customer. Yes, you may be willing to offer breaks now and then, but if one of your customers consistently asks for bottom barrel prices—to the extent that you are no longer making a profit—it might be time to let that person go.
Customers who continuously make trouble for your company are also worth looking at. “Ya know how enthusiasm can be contagious? Well, so can depression and unhappiness,” Hyken says. “Customers who are difficult to deal with can have personalities that spread like a cancer through your office and bring your employees down. Remember that one bad apple can spoil the bunch.”
How to do it
Calm yourself before confronting your customer. Then, approach them with respect. “The customer may not always be right, but they are still always your customer,” Hyken says. “Especially if they are giving you a hard time, don’t ever go down to their level.”
In the situation where Hyken’s assistant was brought to tears, he used this script, “I simply said, ‘I want to apologize for anything we did wrong to get you upset. The way you treated my assistant is unacceptable and I’m afraid we can no longer work together.’”
In some cases, when you call them on it, the customer will apologize right away and rectify his or her behavior. In cases when they don’t, it is best to simply cut the chord.
“Be pleasant and firm when ending the relationship; you never know, they could return someday as a better customer,” he advises. “If they don’t, send them to your competition and move on.”