On more than one occasion I have written in this column: The customer is always right. Certainly that is the conventional wisdom.
I have always been taught to follow that logic. If the customer is not happy, then in all likelihood there will be no customers. And without customers, the business will cease to exist.
This all made perfectly good sense to me until I read an article in Inc. magazine. The title of the story caught my eye. It was "Fire the Customer."
Holy net profit! Talk about getting my attention.
The main thrust of the story was how a businessperson literally told three of his customers that he no longer wanted their trade. Having their business was not worth the aggravation.
Why fire a customer? There could be any number of reasons. If an irritating customer comes in contact with other customers, it could drive away those good clients who simply don’t wish to be around inconsiderate people. On more than one occasion, I have left a business, particularly restaurants, because of ill-mannered or rude patrons.
There are those customers who are chronically late in paying their bills or never pay the debt at all. Cash flow is the lifeblood of a business. Slow-
paying customers put a strain on the owners of an enterprise. The cost of carrying these molasses types grows quickly.
Of all the customers who create headaches the worst are the ones who believe they have been anointed as God. With that title, they have the right to abuse the owner and/or employees of the business. This species of shopper has no limit on how abusive he may become. Besides the obvious reasons to terminate obnoxious customers, there is also an underlying justification. Sour people have a way of infecting others around them with their poor attitude. If your employees are constantly dealing with negative individuals, it will affect morale. One day the employee will reach the boiling point and imitate the client.
Lastly, you would never wish ill will upon your competition. But if you do fire your customer and he still wants a product or service, where will he likely go? Naturally you have to be aware that your competition may fire customers as well.
When the decision is reached to fire the customer, do so in a professional and businesslike manner. Have your facts and composure together. Above all else, be firm and stand your ground. It’s your business, not theirs.
J.C. Smith is a consultant for the Gainesville district office of the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center, 770-531-5681. His column appears Tuesdays and at gainesvilletimes.com.