Read that title again. Taking a line from the movie Terminator, imagine saying to a customer, “You’re terminated!” Or perhaps another classic Arnold Schwarzenegger quote from the movie series, “Hasta la vista, baby!” Yes, to your customers!
You don’t want every customer. You want most of them, of course. Yet, for the right reasons, it may be time to help a customer find one of your competitors.
Before we go further, ask yourself why your customers do business with you. The first time could be because of a sales or marketing effort. And once they have done business with you the first time, if your product does what it’s supposed to do and you treat them right, then maybe they will come back. Over time, if the experience is positive, consistent, and predictable, they may become loyal customers.
But sometimes, a customer may not be someone—or some company—you want to do business with. In my latest, just-released book, I’ll Be Back: How to Get Customers to Come Back, Again and Again, I cover ten reasons why customers would “terminate” their relationship with you. In that same chapter, I also recognize that there are reasons you may not want to continue to do business with a customer. In other words, you and your company want to “terminate” the relationship with your customer.
Now, why would you want to do that? Here are three reasons, straight from the book.
1. You aren’t able to meet the customer’s expectations and don’t think you can.
Even with the best intentions to take care of the customer, you just can’t do it. Maybe you are doing your best, but you realize it’s not good enough for this customer. You may even ask, “What can I do to make you happy?”
Their expectations may be too high, and you may consider them unreasonable, so you choose to say, “I’m sorry, we can’t help you. Let me suggest some people (or other companies) who might be able to meet your needs better.”
On a more positive note, as difficult as this customer might have been, their higher expectations may have challenged your organization to live up to a higher standard. That could be good for all customers.
2. The customer is unacceptably rude to a team member.
Before we go further, you must understand why the customer is rude. Is it all on them, or can the anger and frustration be blamed on something or someone from your organization?
A certain level of rudeness might be forgivable, but if the customer crosses the line with racial slurs, foul language, or name-calling, it may be time to step in and let the customer know they’ve gone too far and it’s time to move on. I’ll add that this is a leadership decision. A supervisor, manager, or company leader must step in to terminate the customer.
And when managed the right way, it demonstrates a commitment to the employees and shows them that you care more about them than the sale from an unreasonably rude customer. That’s good for the morale of the team.
3. The customer has not paid for the product or service you provide.
This is an easy one. How long will you let your customers keep “taking” your products and services without paying for them? Unless there are special circumstances, it’s not a good business model to work for free. Find out why the customer isn’t paying. There may be legitimate reasons and showing some empathy and understanding for those reasons could go a long way in the future relationship with this customer.
In most of these cases, you don’t want to sever the relationship permanently. You want to keep the door open. You never know when customers will become more reasonable, recognize and accept that they have exhibited genuinely rude behavior (and are willing to apologize for it), or are in a position to pay for whatever they buy from you.
Terminating the relationship doesn’t have to be forever. At some point, they may want to say, “I’ll be back,” and for the right reasons, you may want them to come back.
This article has been reprinted with permission from Shep Hyken’s Forbes page.