managing customer complaints

Every business desires to attract and retain customers, isn’t this so? Yes – being an entrepreneur you always strive to bring clients or customers into your business because they are the ones that indeed give you the revenue and the continuity power. Marketing and sales guys are busy crisscrossing territories on a daily basis looking for new business at whatever costs. The customer is called the ‘King’ and is always treated with so much courtesy. This is absolutely the right thing to do, and makes a lot of sense for an enterprises.

Nevertheless, if you are an entrepreneur that dealt for long with some of the rare brands of customers that give you sleepless nights, then you begin having second thoughts about the customer being the king. Occasionally you just come across customers or clients that make it extremely difficult for the normal flow of value delivery, as should be the case in a normal supplier – customer business relationship. In some rare cases you might consider firing the customer. But what would be the reasons for this drastic decision? What are some of the reasons that can and should make you consider firing a customer? Let’s consider some below.

  • Conflict and misery among your officers and staffs. I think I mentioned some time back that the human capital in an enterprise is very pivotal to the success – and also the opposite of success – in the enterprise. It is important that there is harmony, team spirit, coordination and co-operation within your team in order that the business operates well. Value creation, addition and delivery critically depend on this. Imaging a situation where you have a customer that always causes conflict within your enterprise, and you have tried over and over again to diffuse this and the problem persists. You might in such a scenario consider parting ways with that client, of course in light of several other decision factors at your table. Don’t you think so? Some of them do not even respond to your efforts, they don’t listen to you and never respect you and your staffs. Others are abusive and disruptive. Instead of making life in your enterprise unbearable and possibly out rightly miserable for your officers and staffs, you better target the right culprit. Isn’t this the best approach?
  • Too much negative talk and publicity about your company. There are also the kinds of customers that get dissatisfied once and will continue complaining for the next two to three years about the same incidence. Some of these will continue to talk very negatively and render quite some bad publicity about your business, even if they are still your customers. Haven’t you found people like this in life? They will be eating a meal and complaining while eating that the meal is very bad! May be sometimes it’s human nature – I don’t know. Certainly you don’t need bad image and adverse publicity for your business; do you? You better think of getting a permanent solution. Do you get what I mean here?
  • Increasingly poor business and profitability yet with increasing demands. Again, there are some business accounts that might make you consider terminating. Mr. Entrepreneur, you are in business to make money. Don’t try to be too smart and define your business in other terms while trying to avoid the word ‘profit’ because at the end of the day what keeps you going and continuing to create value to serve humanity is the profit, the motivation and possibly the passion. Imagine a world where businesses just break-even, in other words, revenues just equate costs. Would there be sufficient motivation? Now, when you have a customer you serve diligently and continuously in this break-even mode, or even worse at a loss or deficit, can this relationship really continue for long? Come on. It’s even terrible when such a customer has increasing demands about this, and that, and the other, and the other! Akin to this are some extraordinary demands that are too burdensome and does not make economic sense. Be smart my friend. Some want everything for nothing or don’t even pay in time for services and goods rendered.
  • Social and legal responsibility. In the modern word business enterprises and other institutions are being held to be more responsible and accountable to various stakeholders such as society, the government, legal and regulatory authorities etc. I guess you can easily jot down some of the impacts of this on your business. Can’t you? Imagine a situation where you are doing business with a client that is always acting contrary. Today it’s non-compliance with labour laws and there are very embarrassing press articles about involvement in child labour, ignorance of minimum wage guidelines, oppressive and unhealthy working  conditions etc. Tomorrow it’s about money laundering issues. The next day it’s about environmental non-compliance. You can name them. Candidly, will you be happy to continue doing business with such a client? Unless you are birds of the same feather, you would certainly have a rethink because you might also get embroiled in such unpalatable situation, with various potential backlashes that can damage your business. Do you agree with me on this?

I know many folks would argue against firing a customer, and could enumerate countless reasons not to fire a customer. Some call this the ‘contempt of client syndrome’. It’s really up to you Mr. Entrepreneur. If you feel you can stretch and adapt to a great extent at whatever costs, then you can continue trying your best, but oftentimes clients that are problematic move from one business to another and you would soon hear similar peril stories like yours. Of course even when you decide to proceed and terminate such relationships, you still need courtesy. Don’t make it in too raw a form. Got it?

Till then,

The Wise Entrepreneur

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