When Should We Fire A Customer? Guidance From Customersatisfaction.com
Wrenching as it is, some employees need to go. What isn't clear is when we should fire a customer, says Dr. Gary S. Goodman.
Nobody wanted his calls. The customer service team petitioned the president to "fire this guy." Their boss cited the statistic saying it costs six times the amount to get a new customer than to keep one happy.
But seeing their passion, the president agreed only if reps first treated this fellow as the most cherished customer they had. After 30 days, if the customer didn't reform, the president would personally terminate him.
Smugly certain they would prevail, reps sparkled when they took his calls. Outdoing each other, they lavished courtesies on him.
Before 30 days transpired, as if by magic, the customer actually reciprocated. He became Mr. Wonderful. He sent doughnuts to the team. The president even took him golfing!
So, when should we fire a customer?
It's not clear. And it's not a good habit to get into.
"But if someone is costing far more than he is worth, it's time to consider this option," says Dr. Gary Goodman, president of Customersatisfaction.com and the best-selling author of Monitoring, Measuring & Managing Customer Service (Wiley).
Unfortunately, by the time it's clear the cost/benefit ratio is out of whack we have incurred expenses. This makes us hesitant to take what seems to be an even greater loss by detaching.
Is there a way to detect in advance that a customer won't be worth the cost?
Goodman says there are clues.
"Do some sales prospects take forever to come aboard? If so, already they've cost you more than the typical client. Might be a good time to cut losses."
Skeptical customers are also a pain to work with. After they buy, their pre-purchase paranoia hasn't abated. So, instead of leaving the piloting to you, they constantly lurch for the controls.
The client of an accounting firm received his prepared tax return. Unsatisfied, he went to the IRS web site and recalculated it, taking deductions for which he didn't qualify. Then he insisted the accounting firm adopt the new figures.
"While with some positivity and patience you might find yourself a new golfing pal, you could also be tolerating someone who is constantly putting you and your team off your game," Goodman says.
For information about Customersatisfaction.com's seminars and customer service awards program, contact Dr. Gary Goodman at: firstname.lastname@example.org or at (818) 970-GARY (4279.)
Dr. Gary S. Goodman