As a hardworking entrepreneur working on all phases of your business, one principle focus is customer satisfaction. But what do you do when a client expresses unfounded accusations of poor work or, (If I dare), completely fabricates scenarios specific to the work performed. What if they make accusations regarding your employee’s performance while on the job with no substantiation or proof source of any “outlandish” claim/s? Just like the angel and the devil on your shoulders, decades of Corporate America entrenchment “that the customer is always right” is on your left shoulder and red flags abound with the caption “I need to terminate this business relationship” on your right shoulder. Who do you listen to? The angel or the devil?There’s only one answer if you truly know your company and you truly know your employees. It’s time to fire your client.
We spend a lot of time as professionals working to retain customers and keep our clientele happy, but often it can be at the expense of the best interests of the company. A bad client will cost morale, be a huge distraction from the needs and goals of other clients, cost you money and your sanity.
Is it worth it? How do you know when it’s time to fire your client? These 5 key indicators that it is time to fire your client will apply to any business. The examples given pertain to housekeeping services, but most companies will be able to relate.
- The client is consistently unreasonable or always complaining. This isn’t about being hard to please. Some clients are difficult to please, but if you are a quality service with their best in mind, you can in fact please them with focus and effort. However, some clients are just unpleasable. No matter the effort, time, money, initiative…they just are never happy and almost seem to like to find something to complain about. Their complaints are unreasonable and likely illogical. We recently had a client with a brand new housekeeper placement that was learning her systems and likes and dislikes in her home. She was new to learning how she wanted towels folded, how to care for the pets (including their medications and vet visits), when to do her laundry and what to do and not to do and more. She complained that towels were folded wrong. She complained that furniture covers were not placed appropriately. She complained that dirty dishes were put away. She complained that a trash was missed. All of these concerns had explanations and were fixable with communication and instruction. But then she emailed upset that “something was wrong with our employee” because she didn’t put the diaper on her DOG properly. Okay—unreasonable person alert.
- They are disrespectful or abusive. It can be aggravating as a client to have to deal with a learning curve or having to repeat themselves over and over so that things are handled to their specifications. But when the client is raising her voice, condescending, threatening or abusive in their treatment of their help, take note. This kind of behavior should not be tolerated. The employee will likely be so frightened to make a mistake, that they make more mistakes, not less. As an employer, you have an obligation to your employees to protect them from abuse.
- They do not allow for improvement. In the case of housekeeping services, a person’s home is such a sacred space and each homeowner has very specific ideas about how things should be done in that space. Every client is very different in this regard. It usually takes up to a month depending on how often services are provided to really learn the client’s likes and dislikes and to get comfortable with their expectations. If the client is unwilling to communicate and allow for reasonable time for learning to occur, it may be time to say ciao. We had a client that had very particular expectations of what brand of water went in which of 4 refrigerators and how they should be placed with labels going a certain direction as well as things such as which cupboard certain glassware was to be stored compared to other glassware, which bedroom got which water glass and much more. After only two services they went ballistic that the wrong glass was in the wrong place. Alert!
- They make unreasonable accusations. After just a week’s service with a new housekeeping placement, a client’s coffee wasn’t made properly but had already been brewed before the housekeeper arrived. The client called the housekeeper a liar. Another client insisted that a spray bottle was purposefully left out in the wrong place to irritate the client. She then proceeded to insist that dirty linens were put back on a bed that had been washed the previous service. It was later found that another family member had used that spray bottle and the linens were not dirty, but the client accused the housekeeper of “having something wrong with her”. Clients that consistently accuse you or your staff of malicious intent without merit are going to be a bigger problem than you can imagine.
- They are fishing for discounts after agreeing to a contracted price. Clients that agree to your pricing but then argue with you about having to pay the agreed rate are clients that need to go. There are certainly situations where a discount ought to apply. Maybe you were late which caused undue hassle, maybe an employee missed a key part of the service. But after you send the agreed billing and you get a call that the service was terrible, but cannot be substantiated, or the client refuses to let you repair the concern, you know that client should be on your “do not answer” list.
In twenty three years of business, thankfully we have had very few instances where we have needed to fire a client. Still, there have been enough of these over two decades to have caused significant distraction and financial loss…and sometimes we didn’t listen to our “gut” when we should have and let the client cause more havoc than necessary. Knowing when it’s time to say thank you but no thank you will save you in the long run. It will also send a message to your employees that you will not allow their abuse for financial gain. Listen to your gut, protect your business from bad clients and let them go as soon as there is the sign of any of the above.
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