What to Do When It's Time to Fire a Customer

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Firing an employee is one of the most difficult parts of a business owner's job. However, it's even more difficult to fire a customer. After all, customers are the ones who pay the bills. So doesn't that make firing one a little bit like sabotaging your own business?

Well, not necessarily. Customers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some customers are the easiest people in the world to work for, while others present more of a challenge. The bottom line is that you can't afford to waste your time dealing with problem customers. Eventually, you'll have to face reality and cut loose your problem customers for the good of the business — and for your own sanity.

Here are some guidelines that make firing a customer just a little bit easier.

Be nice.

When a customer has pushed your buttons the wrong way, you may be tempted to vent your frustrations on him when you finally cut him loose. That's always the wrong thing to do. Remember: You are a professional. It's important to maintain a professional demeanor when firing a customer. Be firm, but nice.

Plan what you'll say ahead of time.

The wrong time to begin thinking about what you are going to say to a problem customer is after you have opened your mouth. Plan what you will say ahead of time. You may even want to write out your words and rationale in advance, as well as your responses to any objections you anticipate the customer may make. Obviously, you shouldn't read what you have written to the customer. The purpose of writing it in advance is simply for your own clarification, not to provide you with a script to read from.

Don't be intimidated by the threat of lost revenue.

Business owners often keep problem customers too long merely because they don't want to lose the revenue generated by the customer's business. The owners willingly tolerate years of headaches, frustration and enmity in exchange for an occasional sale that may or may not be that significant in the first place.

Don't allow the threat of lost revenue stop you from letting go of a customer who is creating problems for your business. The truth is that the problem customer is probably costing your company more money than he's worth in terms of the amount of time you spend dealing with his problems.

Examine your marketing plan.

Every business encounters problem customers from time to time. However, if it seems like you are dealing with a steady stream of problem customers, then something might be off-kilter with your marketing strategy. It's entirely possible that your new customers are being drawn from a pool of people with different expectations and assumptions than you anticipated. Consider whether you have misjudged the target market for your products and make the necessary changes in consultation with a marketing professional.