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5 Ways to Fire a Bad Client

Obviously as business owners, we’d all love to be able to hang on to every client we have and make them loyal for life. But the truth is some clients are simply toxic and therefore bad for business. You know the kind – Mrs. Can-Never-Be-Pleased, Mr. Never-Pays-His-Bills-On-Time, or maybe it’s a Stage 5 Clinger who texts, calls and emails you 80 times a day that’s the thorn in your side. Whoever it is, every business has them and there comes a time when you have to make the difficult decision to cut your losses and fire them – if for no other reason than to salvage your own sanity. That being said, here are 5 tactful ways to give that problem client the big heave-ho.

Set Clear Boundaries – Often the clients who drive business owners the craziest are the ones who take a football field when given an inch. It’s hard to say no, especially in this economy, but when you find yourself or your employees being stretched to the limit because your client keeps asking for more than what you originally agreed to, the most important thing to do is set clear and specific boundaries. If you’re willing to do so, offer to complete the additional work but explain there will be additional fees involved. Or, better yet, simply say ‘no’. If they can’t push you around, they may leave on their own.

Provide Plenty of Notice – If you’ve reached the difficult (yet liberating) decision to set your problem-client free, be sure to provide them with sufficient notice to limit the ill-will that may result. The point is to rid yourself of the burden without causing too much fallout. Giving notice allows the client time to process the news and locate an alternate source of goods or services (i.e. become someone else’s problem).

Offer a Referral – Assuming the client you’re firing isn’t terrible, but just perhaps a bit more than you are willing or able to handle, consider providing a few referrals at the time you give your notice. This goes a long way toward mitigating any bad feelings that may be caused by the split. Of course, if the person is an absolute nightmare, your colleagues may not appreciate your referring him to them, so it entirely depends on the situation.

Jack Up Your Prices – This one is a bit on the passive-aggressive side, but it just may work. Raising your prices to something that is well beyond competitive (just for Mr. Problem Client, of course) is something you may want to consider as a way to get him to leave on his own. And on the bright side, if they do agree to the price hike the extra money coming in may help you to find them a lot less irritating.

Be Professional – Above all else, whatever way you decide to cut ties with a bad client, it’s absolutely critical that you do so in the most professional manner possible. Just because you may no longer wish to do business with that particular person doesn’t mean you want to risk alienating everyone else in that person’s network. Remember, it’s all about business so keep it that way.

It’s never easy to let go of a paying customer, but sometimes it’s a necessary evil, especially if that problem client is negatively affecting the rest of your business. These tips should help you clean house as smoothly as possible so you can focus on your good clients and moving forward with your business in a positive direction.


posted by Rebecca Daneault @ 7:33 AM