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Fire Evil Customers – Idea #25 for Better Serving Team Members

Evil customer

Does your organization ever deal with a customer or member who is just a royal pain in your backside?

The answer, of course, is most likely, “Yes!” We all encounter customers or members who make unreasonable demands, complain about everything, or perhaps even verbally attack our team members.

We can offer our team members a tremendous service by firing those types of customers. We just kindly inform the customer that we don’t feel we’re the best fit for them, and politely refer them to some other organizations that could help them meet their needs (perhaps to one of our competitors).

This can benefit the entire organization in big ways.

It can be a little scary to fire a customer that seems to be a significant source of revenue. However, in many cases, these customers who wreak emotional havoc for our team members aren’t as valuable as we may think.

These customers probably don’t generate any referrals for us. According to the Pareto principle, these customers probably account for the vast majority of time spent dealing with complaints, and they cost us productivity by emotionally draining our team members.

Compare that to our best customers. The customers who are well-aligned with our core values and who are so pleasant to work with that they likely energize our team members. These customers are also most likely referring new business to us. Thus, these customers are significantly more valuable to us than what we can measure just in terms of the revenue they provide us directly.

With whom would you rather spend more time and energy?

Clearly, our time is much better invested with the positive customers than with negative ones. A simple way to spend more time with the 20% of our customers who are likely producing 80% of our results (Pareto principle again) is to kindly fire the 20% of our customers who are producing 80% of the customer-related problems we deal with.

Another benefit of being open to some variation of this idea is that it can send a powerful message to team members about how much we care about them.

Imagine that we have verified that a customer has been terrorizing a couple of our team members with irrational, unreasonable demands, and emotional attacks. Instead of asking our team members to suck it up and appease that customer, imagine that we instead speak with the customer, apologize for any difficulties they encountered while working with our team members, and kindly and politely let them know that we’re not the best fit for them and refer them to someone else.

The message to our team members is clear: we value you more than we do the revenue from a customer who is unhealthy for you and our organization.

This can clearly be tied back to bottom-line results using the logic above. And, another bottom-line benefit is that we may just retain a talented, valuable team member who might have left if they had to keep working with a demoralizing customer. Reducing turnover can have a huge impact on the P&L.

Perhaps more important, though, we may be truly serving both the former customer and our team members. We may refer the customer to someone who is truly a better fit. And, we are certainly creating the conditions for greater happiness for all involved, and stronger personal relationships with team members, which makes coming to work each day much more fulfilling.

Is this something you have tried with your team?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this approach.

Please leave a comment if you’d like to share.


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