We have all been there.  Every business owner has dealt with a customer who is constantly complaining, always pushing for more, and is generally a pain in the neck. I can think of an example or two… and I bet that you can as well!

But the customer is always right… right? Not necessarily.

In fact, there are times when the best decision is to part ways with a difficult customer.  Obviously this is an action of last resort and should not happen often, but there are times when it is the right decision to make.  Before making a decision on whether to fire a difficult customer, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does the customer have a good reason to be upset?  If a customer is constantly complaining, the first step is to evaluate the complaints.  Just because your other customers are not complaining does not mean that the complaining customer is in the wrong.  In fact, oftentimes complaints are a blessing in disguise, because they help you identify weaknesses in your business model before they develop into a crisis.

  2. Have you taken all reasonable steps to resolve the situation?  Once you have identified the source of your customer’s problem, have you attempted to fix it?  It is always more expensive to attract new business, so before you fire a current customer ensure that you have taken reasonable steps to save the relationship.  That said, it is not a good idea to rearrange your entire operation to suit the whims of a single customer.

  3. Is the customer making you or your staff miserable?  Optimism and clarity of mind are important in order to do a good job running your business.  If a customer so aggravates you that you are unable to do your job as the leader of your business, despite your best efforts to fix things, by all means cut ties.

  4. What are the possible consequences of firing the customer?  Finally, before making the decision to ending a relationship with a customer, it is important to consider the repercussions.  Does this client have a close relationship with other clients?  Are they a great source of referrals? Are they in position to harm your business?  If so, it’s important to proceed with extreme caution.  It is unfortunate, but there are scenarios in which you simply have to “bite the bullet” for the sake of your business.

Firing a customer is not a decision to make lightly.  But sometimes, it is the right decision to make.  If you do find yourself in that situation, take the time to reflect on the relationship and look for changes you can make going forwards to ensure that you never have to fire a customer again.