At face value, it may seem outrageous to consider firing some of your customers. In a competitive market with a down economy, it makes more sense to cater to even the most troublesome customers just to keep their business.
While that may help the bottom line, it can have serious consequences for both your business and employees. The Pareto Principle, or the “80-20 rule,” can be applied to customers. About 80 percent of customers are happy campers. But the other unhappy 20 percent can take up the majority of your company’s time and energy, just trying to work out problems and keep them happy. Of those 20 percent, there may be a few offenders who, at the end of the day, just aren’t worth the trouble.
An article in Forbes puts it bluntly. “5 Customers You Should Fire,” by Steve Cody, lists five customer types you may want to ditch. Think about it. Chronically unhappy customers can damage a company’s otherwise good reputation. They wreak havoc on your customer service representatives with unrealistic demands and pressure tactics. They are relentless in getting their way. These are people you can do without.
Some customers think they have bought the entire company when they purchase a product or service. They have a sense of entitlement and expect to be treated as if they were the only customer. They could be heavy-hitters or account for a hefty slice of the company’s revenue, but they are high maintenance and expect immediate responses, 24/7. The problem is they take so much time and resources, leaving other customers and prospects unattended. Keeping one customer and losing many doesn’t make good business sense. Losing this customer can free up time and resources to gain new business.
According to Cody, some customers use fear, threats and profanity to try to get their way. While they wouldn’t think to talk that way to a manager, they prefer to take it out on customer service representatives. These “Jekyll and Hyde” customers can verbally abuse and dismantle a customer service rep; then, when bumped up the ladder, appear to be congenial and cooperative. These customers take a lot of time, destroy the morale of the service team and erode the respect for a management team who allows the abuse to continue. They need to go.
Then there’s the customer who just loves confrontation and has to win…every time. Regardless of how unrealistic or outrageous their situation or requests, they just enjoy the game. Customer service reps follow procedures and have limits to what they can do or authorize. These customers know the rules, but still try to get every concession possible. Unfortunately, they may succeed when talking to a supervisor. This undermines the customer service staff, since they have to follow policies and guidelines that they know will be ignored further up the line.
You can’t make it in business without customers. Even firing the whole 20 percent that complain isn’t the answer. But, there will always be those “stinkers” who will push the envelope and try to throw their weight around to get what they want. After all, business is all about attracting, serving and retaining customers. However, when a customer’s tactics, behavior or ethics become intolerable, destroy morale or monopolize a company’s staff and time, it may be cause to turn the tables and give the customer a pink slip.