Ending a customer relationship is a difficult thing to do. Sometimes selling relationships are just not meant to be and are more work than they’re worth. Taking the step to end that relationship has the potential to positively impact your business.
Before firing a customer, you need to actually determine who are and who are not bad customers. Signs of bad customers include:
- Rude and abusive to you and your staff.
- Unreasonable demands, such as refunds long after sale, constantly asking for free services and discounts, etc.
- Threatening to complain about you online.
Note: Don’t be overly harsh. Sometimes people are just having a bad day and can take it out on you. A bad customer is one that consistently shows these qualities and acts inappropriately.
The reality is that sometimes things happen, and your business is not the right fit for a customer. It is in your best interest (and theirs) to say your goodbyes. Servicing bad customers can take a toll on your sales (and you)! Here are some other reasons why keeping these customers can damage your business:
- It takes a lot of energy and money to service bad customers! The more customers you service, the less time you have to spend time on other customer relationships. Constantly servicing an unhappy customer can eat up time that you would spend on acquiring new customers and servicing your existing ones. Happy customers = more money! Spend time on those that will make you more money.
- These customers have limited potential to grow. The fact is if a customer is being difficult or is unhappy with your business, it is very unlikely that they will continue to spend their money. It can eat up a lot of resources to keep their business, and there may be limited return.
- Not a great fit for referral business. Customer referrals can be a huge asset to your business. Unhappy customers can give you bad publicity, and limit your possibility of referral.
Does it sound like it’s time to fire some of your customers? Here’s how to let them go gently:
Step One: Say Thank You
This may be the last thing you want to do, but it can go a long way. Start the message with: “We appreciate you buying [insert product]” or “Thank you for your business”. These types of phrases show that you appreciate their investment and their individual case.
Step Two: Rephrase the Situation
The current interactions have been negative, so it’s important to rephrase the current situation. This is not about pointing fingers, instead, approach the situation as you were not a good fit. Try writing: “This request is out of the scope of our business, and we will not be able to service you at this time”, or “It seems like we haven’t been able to keep up with your requests”. Let the customer know it is not a customer failure, but rather your business’s inability to meet their needs.
Step Three: Refund
You want to give them back what they gave you. By not refunding an unhappy customer, you will always owe them something. You don’t want to have anything they can blame you for. When talking about the refund, say: “You should not have to pay for an experience that does not live up to your standards. Here is a full refund.”, or “We’ve gone ahead and sent you a full refund.”. Giving a refund before letting the customer ask for one gives you the upper hand.
Step Four: Apologize Again and Say Your Goodbyes
The final step to firing a customer is apologizing for their experience once again, and saying your goodbyes. Use this as an example: “We are sorry you had a negative experience. We thank you for your time. All the best!”. This last step leaves the customer with closure and politely closes the interaction, without asking for repurchase in the future. You no longer expect anything from them, and hopefully, they have received everything they needed from you.
When ending a customer relationship, always remember:
- You need to take the high road. There is nothing to gain in starting an argument with a customer. You probably will not change their mind, and it can most likely result in bad press for you.
- Document everything. Keep records of every interaction between you and the customer.
- Follow through on your promises. If you said you were going to give them a full refund, do so. You do not want the reputation of being unreliable.
- Refrain from discussing the issue with others. No matter how frustrating an experience between you and a customer is, you do not want to go around talking about it. This might get back to the customer, and cause more conflict than it’s worth. Discretion is key.
Firing a customer will always be an uncomfortable and difficult task. Using this method will help to reduce any negative feedback, and give you and the customer what you both need.
Nina Galle writes blog posts, templates, free tools, and other helpful resources for farmers and markets.