I have a client, let's call him Bob, who had a nightmare of a customer. Bob's customer was always late on payment, was high maintenance, and was never wrong. I suggested Bob fire this bad customer. The problem? This customer was 25% of Bob's revenue. Ouch!
After Bob had finally had enough, he bit the bullet and let his customer know they would be no longer be working together. Bob was professional, gave them a 60 day notice, and even offered some names of competitors (Bob thought that was funny).
Bob's business took an initial hit financially, however, over the course of only six months, he replaced the income. And Bob was happier than ever.
There are certain customers you have, that are like Bob's customer. Let's take a look at five of them.
- Whining customers - I'll bet you that there is one particular customer that you absolutely hate taking a call or email from, because you know that they are going to find something to whine about. They don't think they should have to pay a certain price, they want something for nothing, or they just plain ole whine about life. This customer is not only a drain on your bottom line, but they can be a drain on your mental well-being.
- No profit customers -Take a look at your customer list and examine it carefully, Odds are you will find customers that do not make you a profit. In fact, a few may cost you money, just to do business with them. Unless they lead to larger customers or referrals, they need to be sent away.
- Frustrating customers - Customers that make poor use of their time create emergencies for you. If they are always running late or canceling meetings, not prepared to take product or service, or don't respond in a timely manner, you may need to reconsider this customer.
- Late paying customers - This customer always has an excuse, but in reality, they are either disorganized or not respectful of your business. Either way, they may not be a good long-term customer.
- Know-it-all customers- If you are a graphic designer and your customer insists on using Comic Sans, because "it looks so cool", you may need to move them to a competitor.
Firing the customer is never easy and may not always be right for you. The thing to remember is that you are running your business to make a profit and to provide a product or service that helps others, and that product or service may not be right for everyone.
Charles Alexander is the Director of the Tennessee Small Business Development Center at Vol State Community College