Firing a Client

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You’re in the business to provide a service and hopefully excellent customer service. Unfortunately, try as you might, you will meet a client that isn’t interested in your niceties.

TL;DR: It’s totally fine to fire a jerk customer.

The PC on my bench was old, but functional. It had multiple software issues, so the best solution was to back-up the customer’s data, format, and reload Windows from scratch. When the job was inspected and finished, the customer paid and I sent him and the computer on their way. A few days later, the customer calls be back in a huff. He can’t get a CD to work and is demanding to bring the computer back. I told him that would be fine–but I was literally heading out the door to pick up my daughter from school and wouldn’t be back until the morning. He hung up on me. I didn’t appreciate his rudeness or his accusatory tone that I didn’t do my job when I knew that I had.

The following morning, he stormed in my shop with his ass on his shoulders and demanded a refund. I stated my policy that if there’s a problem, I try to remedy the solution first before offering any sort of refund. I asked him to bring the computer back to me so I can see what the problem might be and I would gladly fix it for no charge.

“I don’t trust you.”

My smile dropped. I walked to the shop door, opened it, and told him I couldn’t help him and there would be no refund. He stomped out of there and I later learned that he made a stink of the situation, but I also learned that he had a history of bullying businesses into giving him services for free. If anything, he helped my business by the congratulations I received for standing up to him.

How do you know whether to fire a customer or client?

  • Your customer is verbally abusive. Basically, a jerk.
  • The customer is never happy. You know what you can and can’t do, and it’s never good enough for them.
  • The customer repeatedly has problems paying. One late invoice isn’t bad, but you need to reconsider your billing practices to keep others from abusing your generosity.
  • They’re unethical. They undo your work, or break something, but blame you for it.

I prefer to fire my customers after I’ve received payment from them. When I’m not being a total bitch (seriously, I was rather pleasant and calm during the above exchange), politely explain the situation, be professional, and give your reasoning. Or you can give excuses:

  • You’re booked up. You won’t be able to get to them for several weeks.
  • Raise your rates. Jumping from $80 to $120 an hour might make your time with them more tolerable.
  • Recommend a competitor that will suit their needs better.

Don’t go on Facebook and bash the customer or the business you’re servicing. Should they leave a bad review, you can professionally respond to any criticism. Your goal in this is to ditch that trouble customer so you can focus your time and energy on the good customers.

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Emily is the person to blame behind Surviving Alabama. She is a nerd, a mother, and sometimes pretends to be a writer (although there was that one legit writing job for a few years...). When she isn't writing, repairing computers, or designing websites, Emily is happily raising three children with her very understanding husband.

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