by Brittany Willes, Plastics Decorating
The customer is always right. We’re all familiar with the old adage and rarely think to question its authenticity. Sometimes customers are wrong, and some even create more problems than profit. When customer relationships are no longer mutually beneficial, it’s time to let those customers go. So, how do you determine if a customer needs firing? Below are some of the more common themes in bad customer relationships.
1. Unreasonable demands
Customers are demanding. Some will be more difficult to please than others. This doesn’t automatically make them bad customers; in time, they may become easier to work with once a sense of trust and respect has been established. There also are customers determined to be unhappy regardless of your efforts. You may find yourself defending the quality of your work or performing extra work outside the original service agreement in an attempt to soothe perpetually ruffled feathers. Often, these are high-profile clients whom businesses are reluctant to lose for fear of lost revenue. However, given the extra time, effort and handholding they usually require, these customers are less profitable than imagined. If a client habitually costs you time and resources better spent on more appreciative customers, it’s time to let that client go.
2. Chasing payment
When businesses expand and develop, naturally the cost of doing business also rises, leading companies to increase their prices. Most customers understand this and happily will comply with the adjusted price as long as quality continues to be good. Bad customers will argue and refuse to pay the higher prices. Fear of losing customers, and therefore revenue, may prompt business owners to allow outdated payments. By not enforcing price increases for all clients, businesses ultimately will lose money as they struggle to satisfy unreasonable customers rather than focus on clients willing to pay the current rates. There’s no harm in negotiating prices. Everyone wants the best deal for the best value, including good customers. When negotiation turns into unreasonable demands and undervaluing your work, it’s time to draw the line.
3. Monopolizing time
Spending the majority of your time and resources appealing to a single customer means taking away from others. If you allow one client to dominate your time and attention, the customer will come to expect it. And, those clients who already value your work without making unreasonable demands on your time? They are the ones most likely to suffer and, therefore, to look elsewhere for service. This goes hand in hand with chasing payments. If you’re having to send multiple invoices and payment reminders, spending valuable time haggling with clients, this also detracts from time you should be focusing on good customers.
4. Compromising quality
Life happens, things go wrong and last-minute emergencies demand last-minute problem-solving. However, these times should be few and far between. If your clients routinely demand services within time frames that require you to lower the professional standards of your work, you compromise more than just your time. Performing rushed, low-quality work undermines the reputation of your products and services. This reflects badly on you and your client. The customer is right only so long as both of your needs and goals are being met.
Good customer relationships require a great deal of trust from both sides. Customers need to be able to trust their service providers to conduct themselves in a legal and ethical manner. Business owners need to be able to trust their clients to behave the same. If a client behaves unethically and asks the same of their service providers, the client needs to be fired. It may seem like an obvious sign of a bad customer relationship, but it warrants mentioning. When customers lack integrity, everyone suffers.
In the end, good customer relationships are built on mutual respect. If you feel that a client is not respectful of you, your employees or your business, it is time to let that client go.