Is there a good time to break up with your client?
I recently had the opportunity to present an overview of customer experience training material to a group of professionals and when it came time for the question and comments portion of the afternoon, one of the best lines came straight out of the operations manager’s mouth. “This sounds very pro customer?” followed by a lifted eye.
Then she followed up with, “What if a particular customer is bad for your business?”
I think she expected me to respond with, “No customer is bad for your business.” However, this is not the case. We’ve all had toxic customers whether we’re in B2B or B2C. My feeling is that she thought I’d have a straight answer on when to terminate a relationship with a client or customer. Of course, there is no one size fits all response, but I highly recommend having a point of view on this within your leadership team. Alignment is critical, so take the time to hash this out before it’s happening in real time.
One preventative step is setting expectations in the early onboarding stages with a new client or customer before the working relationship is in full motion. Let the client know and understand what they can expect from you or your team. You may find out early on, this is not a productive professional relationship.
If things start to feel awry, here are some questions you can ask yourself if the relationship is worth continuing.
How is the customer impacting your employee morale?
How much money is your organization spending to maintain the customer relationship (are you recovering service defects or client expectations through accommodations and discounts)?
Can you offer the service or product the client or customer is looking for?
Are you the right brand to solve their needs or problem?
What legal ramifications might be impacted by a separation?
And most importantly, is the time and energy you spend with the customer taking away from other clients or customers who need your time, attention and service? Who are you neglecting and what business are you losing?
If you decide that it is time to part ways with a client or customer here are some things to consider.
Can you recommend the services of another organization or individual?
Will there be legal ramifications?
Who might need to be notified in terms or legal or public relations partners?
Who is the right person to terminate the relationship?
Who can support the termination of the relationship if need be?
I recently heard a great antidote in regards to “breaking up” with a client, “we’re actually great friends now”. I had to laugh because sometimes we are better off just as friends and not in business together. You may also bring relief to that client or customer as well because there is a good chance that they don’t feel it is a good fit either or they are in need of a completely different service, product or brand. It could be a great move for the both of you!