Monday, February 23, 2015

Customer goodbyes

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     Customers and clients come in different flavors. When you open your small business door to the world, you can expect all different types to walk in.

     Most customers are like gold. You welcome them. You value them. You go the extra mile to keep them happy and coming back. 

     Others? Well, they are different. Some seem to be forever late in paying the invoice you send. Others haggle with you on every price. Some will not say anything to your face, but they bad mouth you on social media. Others suffer a personality defect that causes them to criticize everything and everybody. 

     Every business owner has seen all types of people. You might be putting up with a certain number of customers who are not worth the time and effort required to keep them. When this happens, it can be time to say goodbye. 

     Example: A customer returns again and again to the florist, ordering more flowers, but always complaining that the previous ones died too quickly. It becomes apparent that the customer is angling for a discount on the current order. You give in the first time, and maybe the second, but eventually you realize that her small orders don't compensate for the time spent or the discounts demanded. To handle, you refer her to another florist.

     Example: A veterinarian helps a pet cat overcome an itching problem. It takes a couple of follow-up trips before the itching shows signs of going away. The owner insists loudly that the vet should be using a treatment learned on the Internet. It might be time to recommend a specialist down the road. 

     Example: Painters of inside walls can refer fussy homeowners to others, rather than repaint walls several times to achieve the homeowner's desired shade of green. It can be good for business to refer these types to other painters--and then concentrate on corporate and commercial clients who are much less fussy. 

     Example: A financial adviser recommends several strategies for an argumentative new client. Even when the clients makes money, he second guesses the strategy and frequently voices endless criticisms. Time to move on. 

     All customers and clients are potentially good customers and clients. The key word is "potentially" in this statement. Depending on the situation, you might be able to work with problem clients and develop an on-going relationship that serves you and them.

     When it serves only them, it can be time to refer them to a competitor. If you make such a decision, always say your customer goodbyes with grace and a smile. They might return one day with a much improved attitude. 

      Saying goodbye to a customer or client is called "resigning the account" and it is an old Madison Avenue technique. When dealing with problem people takes more of your time and money than it's worth, it's time to gently show them the door.