This Episode:​ Firing Customers Without Burning Bridges

The customer isn’t always right. While I strongly advocate for a customer-focused approach, there are times when you may need to part ways with a customer. It’s important to recognize when a customer is causing significant emotional strain, making it necessary to end the relationship. Fortunately, having a well-thought-out strategy can help you navigate such situations with grace and professionalism.

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As the owner or the manager of a retail business, every once in a while you’ve just had enough. Every once in a while you have to fire a customer. And in this episode of Real Retail TV, I’m going to share with you exactly how to do it.

If you have followed WhizBang! Retail Training for any amount of time at all, you know that there is not a person on the planet, or people on the planet, that are more customer focused than everyone here at WhizBang! Retail Training. We believe in WWMCW, what would my customer want, as an overarching business philosophy and strategy.

We believe in givers get. We believe in love your customers, the money will follow. We believe in looking at the lifetime value of a customer. But sometimes, the bullshit to benefit ratio gets skewed to the point where a customer has got to go.

You’ve had enough. You’re sick of them. Like I said, their value has now gone into the realm of the negative. And in that case, it’s just time to fire a customer.

And this is how it’s done. The first thing to recognize is that you never fire a customer in a heat of the moment, in the heat of the moment. You know it may be emotionally satisfying to get in somebody’s face and say, get out of here. I don’t need you.

I don’t ever want to see you again. But that’s not the way you should do business. If somebody is at that place, stop, let that transaction, let that sale, let that interaction end, and then stop. Take a deep breath.

Acknowledge the fact that you’re angry. Make a decision of whether the lifetime value of that customer is worth what you’re going through. Make a decision about whether the potential negative feedback you’re going to get on social media, with friends, with your customer base, is worth the hassle of having that person as a customer. And once you’ve made that decision, assuming you’ve made that decision to fire that customer, good.

You’ve made a professional, non emotional decision. Take the name of your most hated competitor and put it on a business card. This is the little piece that I absolutely love. Because you all–

everybody’s got a competitor they don’t like, right? Maybe as an online competitor. Maybe it’s your vendor who is undercutting you. Maybe it’s somebody right down the street.

But put the name and contact information of your most hated competitor on a business card. And the next time that person comes in have, again, a non-emotional very, very matter of fact conversation. And the conversation should go something like this. You know, after our last–

after the last time you were in here, I realized that we’re just not a good fit. You know, there’s been several instances in the last year, two years, two weeks, whatever that time frame is, where we’ve tried really hard to make you happy and we just can’t seem to do it. And that’s OK. We want you to be happy.

And I think you would be better served if you went here, right? Give that person your bad customer. And then just be very matter of fact about it. Right?

So you see what’s happened? You haven’t made a stink. You haven’t been an idiot. You’ve just been very professional and matter of fact.

And that’s what we’re trying to do in everything we do. Be professional and matter of fact. Now in the 19 years that I owned my retail business, the Mackinaw Kite Company, I only needed to fire two people. You know, as I mentioned earlier we were, and here at WhizBang!

Retail Training we still are, incredibly customer focused. And we would go out of our way to help anyone, even the most difficult customer–

customers. But there were two customers who needed to go. And we fired both of them in exactly the way that I described to you. In fact, that’s how I learned of the process that I described to you.

And one of the customers never came back. That’s fine. We–

we’re ready, we were ready for them to go. We wanted them to go. The other customer became good as gold. You see, because we worked so hard to make him happy, he just took it for granted that we would do anything he asked.

And he would do all these crazy special orders. And, you know all–

and then they never worked out. So we were in the kite business, and selling kite string, kite line to be more accurate, was a big part of what we did. So he would order these custom length, and custom styles, and they were never quite right. And finally we had enough.

And when we fired him, he realized that he was taking advantage of our intensely customer focused philosophy. In fact, he came back and apologized. He said, you know I’ve been thinking about it and I realized I was asking too much of you guys. And he became good as gold.

He was a great customer after that. So by firing both of them we achieve the goals in both instances. I’d much prefer to keep a customer than to let a customer go. But in the case of the customer who went away, hallelujah, let somebody else deal with them.

So when you know that you can fire a customer, when you have this strategy in your back pocket, so to speak. It allows you to be a lot more patient. Because you know that you have an out if you need it. You know you don’t have to take it.

You’re choosing to take it. And you know that if the bullshit to benefit ratio is out of skew, you know what to do. Your action item, should you choose to accept it, is first of all to ask yourself, are there any customers that are really creating emotional problems for you? Are there customers who, when you see them walk up to your door you go, oh no it’s them?

If there are ask yourself, is it worth it or not? If it’s worth it, recognize it, treat them well, get their money, lifetime value of a customer. If they’re not, fire them. The second thing I would encourage you to do, is I would encourage you to have this conversation with your team.

Recognizing that this is a legitimate business strategy. And asking them if there is any one that they feel needs to go. Getting them involved in the process of understanding that there is an out, gives everybody emotional freedom. So, again, I only fired two people in 19 years.

But those two people when I fired them, it’s kind of like firing an employee, right? You hate to do it. It’s always traumatic. But once you do it, you feel great.

You recognize you should have done that a long time ago. And that’s what I want you to recognize. That this can be done. And that if it’s necessary to do, do it and you’ll feel better for it.

So thanks for watching this episode of Real Retail TV. If you haven’t signed up for our free WhizBang! tip of the week yet, I would strongly encourage you to go to whizzbangtraining.com and sign up.

Every Wednesday you’re going to get great information that will help you run a better retail business.