Martha Spelman Customer Relationship Should You Say Goodbye to a Client?

Not every client or customer relationship rates an A+. In fact, the grades of some clients might fall into the “Fail” column. Yet, we keep them on.

Why? Some may say cashflow, work coming in, can’t say “No.” Any number of reasons.

But, at some point, like many relationships, it’s time to move on. “Bad” clients can cost you money, create stress and detract from your brand strength.

Evaluating the good and bad customer relationships you have may help evaluate who the ideal customer is for your business.

Here are questions to ask yourself about those customers you’ve put in the “Should They Stay or Should They Go?” column:

Are they part of your marketing team? Check below:

  • Have they referred other potential clients?
  • Have they written a positive review or given you a testimonial, LinkedIn Endorsement or Recommendation?
  • If appropriate, do they credit your work in their promotion?
  • Can you promote, as part of your brand, the work you’ve done for them?

Are they “Paying Fair?”

  • Do they often request a special rate or always demand a discount?
  • Once a project is underway, do you notice “scope creep;” do they ask for work that wasn’t specified?
  • Do they pay as per agreed-upon terms?
  • Do they pay on time or do you spend hours trying to collect?
  • Have they ever refused to pay some or all of your invoice?
  • Do you need to assess an “aggravation factor” when working for this customer?

Do you keep them on as a client because you:

a. Can’t find another client to take their place

b. Need the money

c. Feel bad about “firing” them

d. Don’t want to confront them

e. All of the above

f. Other*

Other reasons to re-think a customer relationship:

Is the work you are providing this customer brand-consistent or are you working outside your brand to accommodate them?

Do they communicate well or expect you to be a mind-reader?

Are they rude, mean, inconsiderate, insulting or ungrateful?

Do they provide what you ask…and when you ask for it? Are they slow to respond, give feedback and thereby make progress difficult?

Does your customer require excessive hand-holding, special treatment, advice on other matters, lots of extra phone calls or meetings?

Do they ask or expect perks like a fancy meal, sports tickets, a golf game…on you?

Are you their fallback when their first choice is unavailable?

Have they asked you to make (too many) introductions that could advance their business?

Is this customer’s business too small (or too large) for your company?

Parting Ways With a Client

Look back at other clients with whom you’ve parted ways:

  • Recall why you’ve “retired” from a client in the past
  • Get feedback from staff members, colleagues or an adviser
  • What were the results of severing ties with a past customer?

Reviewing a difficult client relationship and answering these questions may help you define when it’s time to cut ties and focus on finding your “ideal customer.” It could be time to dive back in the dating pool.

* Please add your experiences or advice in the comments below.