It’s Okay, Throw the Bad Apple (Customer) Away


“The customer is always right.”

It may be a common, dare I say trite, saying, but it’s flat-out wrong. The customer is not always right, and not all customers are right for your company, some of them are downright bad for business.

You know your business needs customers. You know that your business’ purpose is to serve customers—to make their lives better directly through your products and services—but that doesn’t mean that you have to bend over backward to keep every single customer.

Your relationship with each customer is just that, a relationship, and it’s a lot like the other kinds of relationships we have in our lives: A great customer relationship will help grow your business. A lousy customer relationship will suck the life and money out of your company and employees.

Is it time to break up with some of your customers? Here are the surefire signs:

A customer puts you or your business in danger.

There are many ways a bad customer can put your entire business in jeopardy, including a customer who demands that you lie, commit fraud, or do anything else unethical, a customer who threatens to sue over small problems.

With dangerous customers like these, your best bet is to back away slowly and carefully, severing the relationship delicately and quickly. This situation is why you pay your lawyer. Have a conversation about the customer and their behavior, get their expert legal advice, and then follow it! Don’t let this kind of customer disrupt your company more than they already have.

The cost of doing business with a customer is too high.

Dysfunctional customer relationships suck up more time, energy, and other resources for less profit than great customers provide.

Here are examples of costly customer behavior.

  • A customer who doesn’t show up for scheduled meetings, continually reschedules at the last minute, or unreasonably demands that work be re-done is a time, energy, and profit sucker.
  • A customer who clogs up your workflow by not providing information or resources at the promised time, creating backlogs for other customers and emergencies for your employees, costing you time and employee morale.
  • A customer who keeps trying to add extra work, extra advice, or additional deliverables to the order without paying extra is driving your costs up and your profits down.
  • And of course, if you have a customer who doesn’t pay on time, or worse, a customer you send to collections just to get paid, you’re losing money (and probably much-needed sleep) in the deal. Let these customers go, and focus your resources on great customers with whom you can work with efficiently and effectively.

A customer is making your employees miserable.

If a customer is verbally abusive, unfairly demanding, or just an all-around pain in the butt to deal with, keeping them is not worth the aggravation. This kind of stress drains energy you and your staff could be using to serve other, more valuable customers. Worse yet, great employees can and do quit over terrible customers, compounding your nightmare.

Don’t stay in a customer relationship that makes you or your staff unhappy, and don’t risk losing good people by bowing down to unrealistic customer demands.

What a customer needs or wants isn’t what you do.

Sometimes customers are respectful, reliable, and an all-around great, but still not right for your business. This is 100% okay.

If a customer asks you to change the way you do business, or wants products and services that you don’t and aren’t prepared to offer, maybe they’re not the one for you. Let them down easy, and if you know someone who does do what they’re looking for, set them up. You’ll save time, resources, and stress, and build genuine goodwill with another company in your industry.

Working with this customer just isn’t working.

This is all the reason you need, right here. If a customer relationship isn’t working, for any reason, it’s time to kick them to the curb and move on. Life is too short to stay in any relationship that isn’t making your life or your company better.

Letting go of bad customer relationships frees you to focus on finding and serving the customers who are right for you and profitable for your business. Saying, “no,” to one bad customer makes room for one (or more!) better customers.

About the author

Sunny Hunt is the CEO/Founder of Hunt Interaction.

Sunny is not your average marketer. She combined 20+ years of digital marketing experience, and her position as a natural-born outsider to create Hunt Interaction, a high performing conversion rate optimization consultancy. Using a customer-centric focus, Sunny develops smart, achievable strategies and tactics that help her clients convert more website traffic and turn new customers into raving fans.

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