How and When to Fire a Customer – When to Fire a Retail Customer (Part 3 of 6) – Part company

In parts 1 and 2 we talked about high maintenance customers and introduced some ground rules, like leaving emotion out of your decision and avoiding doing anything drastic in the heat of the moment, when you’re considering firing such a patron. We also talked about applying those rules and laid out some wrong motivations for taking such a drastic step.Yet, there comes a time when it’s best to part company. So, when is that time and how do you do it? We’ll delve into the particulars by breaking the discussion up into two major portions, retail establishments and services, including professional practices. Let’s start with retail customers.When to Fire a Retail CustomerFirst, let me note that any type of criminal or illegal activity you discover is not cause to politely fire a customer; it is cause to immediately call the police. With that said, here are some guidelines to help you know when it’s time to pull the plug on a patron.
Excessive use of “free” products or services – if, on multiple occasions, all the customer wants to order is ketchup, water, and a toothpick in your restaurant then it’s time to help them move on.
Behavior outside accepted social norms – if the customer’s bizarre or outlandish behavior is taking away from the atmosphere of your retail establishment, then (s)he has to go.
Threats of legal action – when a customer plays the attorney card, try to appease them for the moment (if you can do so at limited expense, like “comp’ing” the meal the customer ate) and get them out the door post haste. Consider barring them from reentry if they should return in the future.
Anytime the cost of servicing the patron exceeds the potential of any related financial gain in the foreseeable future (the stereotypical “high maintenance customer”), including late payments, wear and tear on staff, excessive demands on staff time, etc – the cost of servicing this customer is a drain on your limited resources; it’s best to cut your losses in this situation.
Again, note that all of these categories are based on a factual assessment, not on anger over a situation or a desire for revenge, which should never be a factor.The Bottom LineWhen the cost of servicing the patron exceeds the potential of any related financial gain in the foreseeable future, then the cost of servicing this customer is a drain on your limited resources and it’s best to cut your losses and help the customer move on.Now that you know when to pull the trigger, exactly how do you go about firing this customer so that there’s minimal fallout and bad PR? In part 3, “How and When to Fire a Customer–How to Fire a Retail Customer”, we’ll cover the nuts and bolts of exactly how to just that.In the meantime, have you ever felt you had to fire a customer? How did you handle it? Did it go well? After reflection, was it the right thing to do? I’ll look forward to comments with your experience and insight

How and When to Fire a Customer -How to Fire a Professional Practice Client or Patient (Part 6 of 6) – Part company

The last resort action of firing a patron is something that every business owner works hard to avoid. But the reality is that sometimes despite your best efforts you can’t turn every customer into a profitable relationship and there’s comes a time when it’s best to part ways.In part 5 I gave some indicators on knowing when to part company with professional practice clients or patients. Now we’ll finish up the series by discussing how to do the dirty work in a professional setting. So, if you have a professional practice business model and you know that it’s time for you and your patron to cut the cord, here are the nuts and bolts of how to do it.How to ‘Fire’ a Professional Services Patient or ClientHere are some suggestions for ways to end the relationship while minimizing the inevitable fallout and bad PR:First, in the cases of questionable legal or ethical activity, get legal counsel on what to say and how to say it.
Always do it face-to-face, clearly stating why you can no longer service the account, client, or patient.
Negotiate an acceptable project milestone or logical stop work point, which will also provide your replacement a logical point to begin work – taking the time to do this step well will demonstrate your professionalism, smooth the transition, and will blunt negative PR because you worked to not leave the client in the lurch.
Suggest or arrange for alternative suppliers/competitors to agree to service the account under the conditions being experienced.
In the cases where criminal activity is not involved, don’t burn bridges and always leave the lines of communication open – who knows? You might be retained to help correct the problem!The Bottom LineFiring a patron is a last resort action, only taken after all the other techniques that can be used to turn a business relationship around haven’t borne fruit.I hope you never have occasion to use what I’ve outlined in this series. But, if you do have to move forward and end commercial ties, then remember:Don’t do it in the heat of the moment,
Don’t do it to get revenge,
Do it courteously, professionally, face-to-face, and
Don’t burn bridges if illegal or criminal activity is not involved.Now it’s your turn. How does what I’ve shared in this series compare with your experience? Did I hit the nail on the head or hit my thumb, instead? I’ll look forward to your thoughtful comments, insight, and feedback.