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Get rid of Bad customers, before they become one

Not all customers are equal.  In fact, I can define customers in 3 groups.

Group 1: The Great customer

That’s the customer that cares about your product or service.  They care about paying you on time.  Those customers spread good words about you.  When they have to renew your service, they call you to make sure that they will be all set for the payment.  They are fun to talk to and are friendly when you do a follow-up with them.  They are the customers that will stay a long time with you.  That’s the customer you want to focus on.

Group 2: The Regular customer

That’s a customer that is just using your product because it fulfills a need.  They are happy with your service, but they won’t go outside and shout it out loud.  As long as you continue offering your product, they are fine with you.  If their payment fails, those customers must be reminded to pay and you go on a hunt to send them a reminder.  Most of the time they will fix the issue, but something they will simply do nothing and you might lose them as a customer.  However, usually there is no hard feeling between you, it’s just business.  Having this customer is a good thing.

Group 3: The bad customer

There are a few cases where you will find a bad customer.  Hopefully, you can count them on your hand, as you will not want them as customer in the first place.  They are easy to spot: even before buying your product, they will be concerned about your service, that they have very unique needs that they are not sure that you can fulfill.  For some reasons, you reply kindly and somehow they become customers.  But then, they start causing you trouble, saying that you product doesn’t work (even though they didn’t try it; you check their account), they want you to add non-sense functionalities and finally they want to cancel and be refunded.  And the refund process is a pain: they call you to be totally refunded or else they will contact their credit card company and cancel transactions that passed 3 months ago (yes, some CC companies allow that).  You refund, and you think to yourself: get the hell out of my life!  Stay away from this customer.

There are so many sign of a future Bad customer that the question is: why try to get this person as a customer in the first place?  Sometimes, we think that we need more customers to make more money.  But that’s not always right.  Having a bad customer costs you money.  It costs you time, your precious time.  It costs you your sanity (some time).  Having a bad customer is always a story that you remember (not in a good way).

The solution?  Read the signs before it’s too late.  You feel that something’s wrong with a potential customer?  Just kindly say "no" to his requests, and move on.  Bad customer will simply ignore you and go bother some other company.  And that’s exactly what you want.

Since offering our service Nimbb, we had some Bad customers.  However, I’m glad to say that we got rid of them (in a passive way, but usually expensive in energy).  We thrive ourselves at offering a great service.  We always answer in a timely manner and with a positive attitude.  This has a great advantage: it attracts Great customers and pushes away Bad ones.

By the way, nobody forces you to get a customer.  The same way you can decide not to purchase from a store offering bad service, you have the right not to accept a customer that feels like trouble.  Think about it next time that you spend your time arguing why your product is so great and that the person in front of you is just trying to find what is wrong with your product.  Be proud enough to say: "I see that our product is not what you are looking for.  I wish you good luck with your search".


1 Comment:

Comment by Phil G - Web Designer on 2012/01/07:
Great post. If I may just add from our own experience: When starting out in the web design/dev business it's often quite easy to be sucker punched by clients that fall in to the "Bad Customer" territory. This is through both fresh faced naivety and the desire to build a customer base rapidly. Only after a few years of operation does a company get valuable experience dealing with "Negative Clients". Things like T&C's and a gut instinct are often good preventative measures. I would split "Bad Customers" down further in to "Un-educated customers" that need educating and brought on board with the value that you provide their business and the amount of time and effort it takes for you to achieve what they might percieve as a simple request. If this fails to work then they are sorted in to the "Impossible to manage" category and should be managed out of your service asap. This is an extremely rare occurence but all tech people feel your pain! It's also a truism that you get 80% of your business from 20% of your customer base. Which would figure with the two other categories that you mentioned.