When It’s Time to “Fire” a Bad Customer

There may come a time in the life of your business when you find yourself faced with a bad customer. While we like to think that all of our customers have our company’s best interest in mind and want to conduct their business in a fair and honest manner, this may not always be the case. You may find yourself spending entirely too much time and money on one customer. There are several kinds of bad customer.

1. The returner – This customer will show their bad customer tendencies over time. They may repeatedly buy and return products. Watch out for customers returning similar products multiple times.

2. The impatient customer – This customer may not pay attention to the posted time-lines for shipping and demand that his money be refunded for slow service.

3. The threat-maker – This customer may threaten to take drastic action, such stopping payment with a credit card company (which may raise your fees with that company). Note, this may only be a bad customer if he or she jumps to this action first, before trying to resolve an issue in another way.

4. The high-maintenance customer – This customer may repeatedly ask for discounts on low profit margin items or make frequent specials requests that demand a lot of your time. Are you really making any money helping this customer?

So what can you do about a bad customer? You will have to decide if hanging on to that customer is worth your time and effort. All of your customers are important, but there may come a point where a customer is costing you money. You time may be better served in trying to find new customers.

So how do you “fire” a bad customer? There are several schools of thought on this subject.

Some people promote the honesty method: simply nicely telling a customer that their actions are costing your company valuable time and money because of extra credit card transaction, restocking, etc.

Others say they prefer to make excuses for rejecting a customer’s order, such as telling them the item is out of stock. This may work, but the customer may just decide to order a different item instead.

Another method is to treat the customer badly; lose orders, ship late. This may chase the bad customer away, but that customer may also decide to seek revenge by posting negative reviews in multiple places.

One more method is the vague method: Simply state that you don’t think your company is a good match for their needs and you will no longer be conducting business with them. They may ask for more details, in which case you will have to decide what to tell them.

Some final helpful hints on “firing” bad customers –

1. Post your shipping guidelines and return policies clearly on your site. That way, if a customer argues that they did not know about a certain policy, you will have a place to direct them. It is the customer’s responsibility to inform themselves on such policies.

2. Don’t beat around the bush. When you’ve made the decision that it’s time to let a customer go, get right to the point. Don’t waste more time and money.

I hope that you don’t have to deal with this issue soon, or often, but when you do, keep these tips in mind.

For more information about running a successful Internet business, visit Diego Norte’s site here: http://www.DiegoNorte.com/


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One Response to “When It’s Time to “Fire” a Bad Customer”

  1. Sara says:

    Thank you for posting this. Some customers, usually about 5% for our business, constantly complain about one thing or the other. No matter how you attend to them, they have something else to complain about. It took me a long time to realize that these are a small percentage, who never spend much money to begin with anyway (even if they are repeat customers) and simply drain you. They cost more than they are worth.

    It’s best to let these customers go elsewhere. Some customers complain no matter what you do. Especially if you’ve been very prompt in responding and have gone out of your way to provide the best customer service. Some customers just don’t have anything better to do than complain.

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