If you've been in business long enough, you probably have had to fire a customer. It's not fun. I'm sure you thought long and hard before you made the decision to let them go. Sandra Yancey, CEO and & Founder of eWomenNetwork, calls it "Bless and Release."
The 80/20 Rule
You've most likely heard of the 80/20 rule, or the Pareto Principle, named for the Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto. The basic principle in business is 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients. On the flip side, 20% account for 80% of the problems.
Your goal is to focus on the 20% who make the cash register ring AND, this is really critical here, who are also in alignment with your core principles and values.
When You Know it's Time To "Bless and Release" a Customer
The signs are there. You just need to recognize them. How do you feel when you're with your client? Are you excited to work with them? Or do you dread it. That's a good place to start.
But there are other more tangible signs that it's time to say, "buh bye" to your client. Here's 5 examples that most business owners agree on:
Disrespect: Your client is disrespectful to you and your team, especially if they're abusive in any way.
Lying: Your client lies. There's often a blame-game here. For example, your client says they gave certain instructions to you or your team that didn't ever happen. You know it's true. Tip: Keep records of all of your conversations! Document everything.
Not doing their part: Your client doesn't do what is required of them to be successful. For example, let's say you're a coach, and you give your client assignments. If your client refuses to do the assignments, it's time to "bless and release." It's a lose-lose for everyone.
Your client is slow to pay: If your client is always late on payment and you are constantly in a position to hunt them down for your hard earned money, it's time.
The client plays you against your competition: This behavior has a tendency to play mind-games with you if you're not secure in your product, service and pricing. If you are in integrity and trust your product or service, stand your ground and say...buh-bye
80/20 rule: You're spending 80% of your time trying to make your client happy.
President of eWomenNetwork, Kym Yancey, has a great story about when he had to fire one of his most important clients. I did an impromptu audio recording of Kym sharing his story, which you can listen to just by clicking on the "play" button.
My takeaway is no matter how much a client is paying you, sometimes it's just not a good fit for your company. The more time you spend trying to please them and make it work, the more time you're taking away from the 20% of your customers who are thrilled to be working with you.
How to Communicate with a Difficult Customer
Before you "bless and release" your customer, you can attempt to communicate with them in a way that will really help clear things up. It's called Non-Violent Communication or NVC. The Center for Nonviolent Communication explains that "NVC begins by assuming that we are all compassionate by nature and that violent strategies—whether verbal or physical—are learned behaviors taught and supported by the prevailing culture. NVC also assumes that we all share the same, basic human needs, and that each of our actions are a strategy to meet one or more of these needs."
NVC works based on these 4 principles of communication:
Observation - The facts of what you observe to be true.
Feeling - How do you feel about what you are observing
Need - Humans have basic human needs. What is important to you? Respect? On-time payment? etc..
Request - What do you request from your client (spouse, child, friend, etc..)
If you utilize NVC before releasing a client, you will know if the client can give you what you need, and vice-versa. There is a skill to practicing NVC, so try it out first on your team and at home. See what the results are. Then you'll have it in your back pocket for when the time is right.