Not all people were meant to work together. At some time or another, we have all had a business relationship where we question how much value we can actually provide a specific client. You will always have those ‘Problem Children’ among your book of business, the types of clients that are nevercontent with you efforts. In fact, I guarantee that most people have one or two specific clients that just came to mind. The ones that demand all of your attention, hinder your productivity, and diminish your enthusiasm. They steal the best of you, making it impossible for you to serve the rest of your clients properly.
It’s time to FIRE them!
Most people have read the story about Southwest Airline’s CEO, Herb Kelleher. Herb received a very mean letter from a woman who complained about Southwest’s lack of professionalism on a particular flight. The majority of airlines would have grovelled for this client, apologizing and even offering compensation or free flights. However, in this case the Southwest Airlines CEO took a different approach. He wrote a very succinct response, essentially firing this person from being a client. It simply read “We’ll miss you!”
This particular method of handling a difficult client makes many of us uncomfortable. The thought of being so direct make all of us feel uneasy. Also, it’s hard to imagine turning away business! Who says ‘No’ to a paying client?
In the large scheme of things, maybe turning away the wrong client allows the us to serve our best clients more enthusiastically? Maybe we should take this as lesson and begin releasing the ‘wrong’ clients.
Have you ever fired a client?
I have had to part ways with several clients over the years. It’s not an enjoyable activity. They push you to the point where you get overwhelmed and think, ‘I shouldn’t have to deal with this’ and in reality, you don’t!
So, I fired a client, more specifically I told them we would not be doing business anymore. To say they were upset is a huge understatement, they were furious! They made threats, hurled snide comments, and even told me they would be contacting my management. Luckily I had the full support of my manager and I was able to pull the trigger when I felt it was right.
The doubt creeps in as you walk away from a client. You try to regain your resolve with phrases like: ‘they don’t deserve my time!’, ‘I have bigger fish to fry’ or ‘ they’ll never find someone to handle their account as good as me!’ But truth be told, you feel sad and insecure. How could someone not like me!? What did I do wrong? I tried everything to make them happy, why weren’t they content?
You may think the worst part is the money you are losing, it’s not. The worst part is when you begin questioning why you were unable to serve this client. It’s a very disheartening feeling. You feel quite dejected.
Luckily this feeling passes quickly when you realize how much better you can service the clients you’ve chosen to do business with. When we release our high maintenance, negative clients we are actually doing them a service as well. When it becomes painfully obvious that the client is not satisfied with your work, the best way you can serve them is to provide them with the opportunity to find someone that will be able to help them.
Severing ties with a client is never pleasant, but many times it is necessary. Rip the weeds out of the garden, otherwise they may choke the most fruitful plants you have. Devote your attention to the clients that deserve it! Focus on providing them with the best you have to offer!
Is there a client that you are no longer able to serve? Here’s a piece of advice I learned from Herb…