Firing Customers

Filed Under (OP Sales Training) by Don on 13-07-2007

Fire the Customer!   I didn’t really want to jump into the foray regarding the news this week about Sprint 1000 – Nextel firing 1000 high demand customers.  However, Tomi Ahonen’s blog over at Communities Dominate Brands made some excellent points with regards to the sheer stupidy of the Sprint move.  I am certain that you probably can share your own stories about a less-than-impressive event that you have had to endure with your own mobile service provider.  But that makes me think about our own industry.  Many independent dealers are strictly commercial dealers but there are those that have retail storefronts as well as a dedicated commercial sales staff.  There is no doubt that Sprint made a bad move and exhibited very poor judgment handling this issue.

While researching information on consumer retail buying habits I ran across a study from Accenture Institute for High Performance Business entitled Act Now! Customers are Limited.  Although it is concentrated primarily on the retail experience it is worthy reading because it’s findings tell us about what is really important to consumers.  The most commonly cited problem annoyances revolved around customer service and delivery issues and secondly is providing too little information to consumers and treating customers rudely.  Also noted was a low single digit percentage amount of customers believed the problem issues would be eliminated by the offending retailer.  Now, when I think of offensive retailers one of the worst buying experiences I ever had was in a “B.Buy” electronics store which was second only to CompUSA.  Each of these retailers have had difficulties in maintaining good customer service for many obvious reasons.  I can only assume that they have made some progress to improve but I will not shop at these store because of my previous experiences. 

The difference here is they didn’t fire me as a customer I elected to leave of my own free will.  Sprint should have done something similar.  What about your business?  Have you experienced high demand customers that are a constant drain on your staff and resources?  Did you fire them or get to the root cause of the problem?

I have had customers that were a real pain.  I’ve wanted to tell them to take their business elsewhere but in the end they are still a customer and they deserve my attention.  One option I’ve used is to increase their prices to cover the additional expense of their service requirements.  If they are unhappy with the pricing they are welcome to go elsewhere, it’s their choice.  Some customers simply require more dedication, and that’s fine too but, if they only purchase $250 per month then your time is better spent with your more loyal, more profitable customers.  Deliberately loosing a customer can be done gracefully but you have to make that choice based on the overall profitability of the account.  If the account has thirty different buyers then you know in advance that you are dealing with a potentially high-maintenance account but that isn’t true for a small account with one buyer and one or two employees.

Some customers can be a pain but they are still a customer.  Perform your due diligence and make sure their complaints don’t warrant some kind of action on your part such as customer service training or product knowledge.  If you can’t meet their needs in a cost effective manner then consider your options.  But don’t fire the customer.  Let them make the choice to exit gracefully because you will know that you always gave them more than they expected.

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