When to Break up With a Problem Customer

Aug 20, 2012

You need to have customers to have a business, but running a successful business requires understanding which customers are worth having a relationship with and which are not.

“[A]s any established entrepreneur will tell you, not every client or every-project is a good one-or even worth your time,” Adelaide Lancaster wrote in a recent article for The Daily Muse. “In the best-case scenario, you see these less-than-ideal clients coming and decline those projects before even getting started. But even the best of us seem to get ensnared with unsavory people and bad projects from time to time. And when you find yourself in this position, it’s time to break up and move on.”

How do you know if it’s time to part ways with a customer?

Lancaster shared these five signs:

1. You’re Not Doing What You Want to Be Known For “It’s easy to get involved with work that you ‘can’ do, but don’t necessarily want to be doing,” she wrote. “A client asks, you say yes-it’s the path of least resistance (and it probably pays). But, instead of accepting every project, it’s important to consider what you want to be known for, and how you can do as much work related to that as possible. After all, most all businesses grow through word-of-mouth referrals, so undesirable work tends to beget more undesirable work.”

2. You’re Over-Accommodating Them “While the occasional favor that pushes your boundaries shouldn’t wreak too much havoc, you need to be careful about consistently yielding to pushy or over-demanding clients,” Lancaster wrote. “Lots of seemingly small accommodations-pulling all-nighters to meet their deadlines, for example-can actually get in the way of your doing a good job for this client and for your others.”

3. You’re Not Earning What You’re Worth “It’s important to audit your clients from time to time,” she suggested. “Think about how much time you spend on them proportional to how much they pay you. Is it in alignment? You’ll probably find for at least one or two, it’s not.”

4. You’re Being Treated Poorly “There’s no excuse for bad behavior,” Lancaster wrote. “If a client is treating you poorly, it’s time to move on.”

5. You’re Too Close for Comfort “Working with people you know, like friends or family, is tricky,” she wrote. “Yet, since most entrepreneurs turn to those close to them for support, they end up fielding a good number of business requests from their personal Rolodex. Some people can handle it and some relationships continue on unfazed, but mixing business with pleasure is tough, and many of these arrangements wind up in trouble.”

To read the complete The Daily Muse article, click here.