How and When to Fire a Customer – How to Fire a Retail Customer (Part 4 of 6) – Part company

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you can’t turn every retail customer into a profitable relationship. Unprofitable, high maintenance customers usually identify themselves when you realize the cost of servicing a particular patron exceeds the potential of any related financial gain in the foreseeable future, including late payments, wear and tear on staff, excessive demands on staff time, and excessive use of “free” products or services. The cost of servicing this patron is a drain on your limited resources, so it’s best to cut your losses in this situation.So far we’ve covered the ground rules, like leaving emotion out of your decision and avoiding doing anything drastic in the heat of the moment, and in part 3 I shared some specific points on how to know when to take the drastic step of parting company with a retail high maintenance patron.So, now that you know when to pull the trigger, how should you go about it? Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts.How to ‘Fire’ a Retail PatronHere are some suggestions for ways to end the relationship while minimizing the inevitable fallout and bad PR.First, maintain the dignity of the patron – NEVER try to get the customer to stop patronizing your establishment by ignoring them, giving them the cold shoulder, or supplying them a lower standard of service, while hoping “they get the message” and just go away. Taking this approach is certain to generate a huge amount of negative PR by the person who, quite correctly, thinks they’re being snubbed. Remember, happy customers will tell a few of their experiences, while unhappy customers will tell dozens!
Always do it face-to-face, politely – admittedly, it can be hard to face a customer in this situation, but, conversely, facing the customer will cause the same (or even a greater) amount of discomfort on their part and facilitate helping them out the door.
Apologize (really!) for not being able to meet their expectations, then suggest other establishments that might better meet their needs – make this a sincere recommendation, not an attempt to just dump the person on a competitor you don’t like. Suggest a specific competitor instead of just “someone else”. The better match you suggest, the better chance they’ll be happy there and you won’t see them again.
If necessary, because the customer isn’t taking the hint, be politely firm, making it clear that you’re ending the relationship.The Bottom LineWhen you have to fire a retail patron, it’s best to maintain the dignity of the patron by doing it face-to-face, politely, and apologetically. Be firm, accept responsibility for not being able to meet their needs or expectations, and make a solid recommendation of a specific competitor that might be able to better serve them.In part 5, “How and When to Fire a Customer–When to Fire a Professional Practice Client or Patient”, we’ll apply these principles to the world of professional practices and learn when it’s time to pull the plug on high maintenance clients and patients there.Do these suggestions make sense to you? From your experience, am I right on or did I leave something out? I’ll look forward to hearing about your experiences.