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How to Fire Bad Customers: A Simple Framework for Small Business Owners

How to Fire Bad Customers: A Simple Framework for Small Business Owners

After your sales team scratches and claws for each account, it is often easy to forget about purposefully curbing your client list. No matter how important your customers are to you, some of them just aren’t worth the time.

Below, we discuss how to figure out if a customer is bad enough to fire, and what you can do about it.

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Differentiating “good” and “bad” customers

The first step is determining whether or not you actually have any bad customers. One thing you do not want to do is simply pick the customers that complain the most and get rid of them. These customers are actually extremely valuable. A recent survey found that if 27 people experience a problem, only one actually reports it. Without those people alerting you to your shortcomings, you may never know how to improve for the rest of your customers.

Here are some important questions you should ask yourself when deciding whether a customer is worth firing or not:

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  • Do you make money from the account? If you are actually losing money on a customer due to frequent returns, outrageous demands, or slow payments, you can get rid of them without thinking twice.
  • What is the opportunity cost of servicing them? Consider whether or not you are spending too much time on low-profit customers. Usually, this time can be better spent focusing on growing higher potential accounts.
  • Does the customer hurt morale? Some customers will be profitable, but treat their account managers or sales representatives abusively. If their behavior is severe enough, cutting ties could be warranted.
  • What else do they bring to the table? Think carefully about any other benefits a customer might bring to the table for you. For example, if they have offered referrals or positive reviews in the past, even if they are not profitable or are hard to deal with, the ancillary benefits could be worth keeping them around.

Contemplating your alternatives

After identifying your problem customers, avoid cutting them loose immediately. Take the time to see if there are any alternatives available to you. You might consider hiring a junior salesperson to handle lower-value accounts while the experienced reps take care of the most important ones.

Another good strategy is simply laying out the facts instead of cutting ties with them. Explain the problems that you are having with them in a polite manner. Let the customer decide if they are willing to make fewer demands or would prefer to find another vendor. They might be unaware that they have been difficult, or quite willing to lower their demands in order to save the business relationship.

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Breaking the bad news

If you have determined that a customer is no longer worth your time and there aren’t any alternatives available, you must figure out how to fire them gracefully. This is an uncommon business proposition and can be quite awkward. However, you can take the following steps to ensure that the separation goes as smoothly as possible:

  • Keep it short and professional. Do not bring emotion into the conversation or engage in any arguments. Simply let your former client know that you will no longer be doing business with them.
  • Offer a referral. If you are comfortable doing so, provide the customer with the name of a competitor who might be a better fit for them. Doing so will minimize the impact on their operations and lower the chance that they will spread ill will towards your company.
  • Try to leave the door open. The only consistent thing in business is change. A company’s budget could increase exponentially, or their purchasing manager may change. Leave on the best terms you can in order to keep your options together open in the future.

Nipping the problem in the bud

As you weed your problem customers out, take care to identify any patterns between them. You might notice that businesses of a certain size or in a certain industry tend to cause more problems. Take a look for any early warning signs that raised a red flag early in your business relationship. Identify these customers and try to train them better from the very start. In many cases, you can preemptively avoid account issues with strategic customer onboarding. The better you become at nullifying problem customers from the beginning, the less time you will waste handling and firing them in the future.

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Getting rid a customer is never an easy proposition. Having the chance to develop more profitable relationships and relieve your account managers of unnecessary hassle, however, is well worth the effort. By following the steps outlined above, you will drive more revenue and make life easier on your employees.

Featured photo credit: VIKTOR HANACEK via picjumbo.com

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5 Powerful Ideas on How to Be Productive at Work

5 Powerful Ideas on How to Be Productive at Work

Not being able to stay productive at work is a problem that everyone runs into at some point; no matter how much you like your job, there are certain factors that prevent you from staying at maximum proficiency throughout the whole day.

A lack of productive focus at work can lead to extra stress on yourself, missed deadlines, passed opportunities, raise denial, demotion and even termination.

So, if you are someone who has trouble with your productivity, here are five effective tips on how to be productive at work:

1. Take breaks

First and foremost, it’s important for you to take regular breaks. Trying to work throughout the whole day will tire your brain, which will then cause you to doze off and think about something else.

If you keep working your brain, it will fill up and get jumbled with information—sort of like a computer hard drive. Taking a break would be like resetting your computer so that it can start afresh, or de-fragmenting the data so that all the information is in order.

This is a great thing because it allows you to solve problems you were unable to solve previously, by seeing it differently; if you are able to organize your thoughts properly, you will be able to take in new information more easily.

There have even been studies about methods of saving time and staying proficient, and taking breaks is one of the leading factors.

According to Christine Hohlbaum, the author of The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World, eating lunch away from your work area every day will greatly increase your productivity. Eating in your work area will give you the illusion that you are working, but whether you like it or not, your brain will begin to wander and think of something else and then you will be working tirelessly with no progress.

It’s important to take breaks before and during work too: if you come to work in a rush because you woke up late, your mind will not be mentally prepared for the day ahead, and you will spend the first 10 to 15 minutes trying to get organized and composed before you can actually start working.

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Instead, you should try to wake up 20 minutes earlier than the time it would take you to “just get” to work. Take that time to stare off into space and not worry about anything.

If you do this, your brain will be empty and ready for all the challenges it has coming for the next few hours.

If your employer only allows a set amount of breaks during the workday, that doesn’t mean you can’t just get up and walk around for a quick break every now and then.

Even if it’s only 5 minutes, it will refresh your brain and you will gain renewed energy to do your job.

Learn more about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

2. Pace yourself and balance your workload

One problem that most people run into is that they underestimate the amount of work they have to do, and end up doing 50% of the work in the last 20% of the time they have to do it. This is due to an issue of balancing one’s workload.

When you receive a project, or are doing a job you normally do, take some time to really plan out your work schedule.

Consider how much time it took you to do this last time; determine how you can break the project into smaller parts and which can only be accomplished on certain days, and whether anything might come up that could interfere with your plan.

All of these questions are important for starting on a project, and when answered, they will help you stay productive throughout each day.

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For example, if you needed to design a project to map out the amount of aid offered in various regions after Hurricane Sandy, you can break it up as follows:

You will need to know what organizations are offering help to begin with, how much aid those organizations gave or plan to give, which regions were hit by Sandy, and which regions suffered the greatest losses.

You start this project on a Thursday and know you have until Tuesday to gather this information.

In order to stay productive, you need to plan out your work week—now you know you can find out which organizations are involved in helping the Hurricane Sandy Victims any day since that information is online, but gathering information on the organizations may require you to call them.

Since phone calls can only be done during week days, you have to plan on gathering all of that information before the weekend comes.

That is just one example of a situation in which pre-planning your project will help you stay productive; had you researched the affected regions first, you would not have received the info on the organizations until the weekend, and may have missed your chance to call them.

That, in turn, would have wasted time you could have spent working on this project to finish it.

Knowing what you need to do, when you can do it, and how long it will take you, is important in balancing your workload and being more productive and efficient.

3. Put your work first

This is an issue that usually occurs with young people who are new to the workforce: they’re often tempted with offers to go out at midday, and then come back lost in thought and unfocused on their work-related tasks.

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While it is important to take breaks, your breaks should consist of you clearing your mind, not loading it up with other less important information—like sports.

However, that is not the only situation where you need to worry about putting your work first before all else.

In a work environment, the senior employees will oftentimes push some of their menial tasks onto the newer employees. If you fall into that category, you need to know that their work is not your work, so if you have tasks that need to be done, you need to do it first.

If you are a new employee, you must learn to say no to other people even when it means you may not be in their good graces anymore. You can help others out once your work is done, but you are paid to do your own work, not anyone else’s.

4. Don’t open your browser unless you need them

In this day and age, everyone is constantly monitoring their social network. This is a major pain point for companies, which is why many don’t allow employees to access their social networks on company workstations.

When you are at work, disconnect the internet from your phone and keep your browsers closed so you’re not tempted to log onto your social media accounts or browse any sites that are not work-related.

If you keep your browsers closed and phone tucked away, only to be used in an emergency, you will find yourself being a more productive employee right away. 

5. Try to be happy and optimistic

If you always have a negative outlook on life, you will be more distracted and less motivated to get work done, so it’s important for you to start your day off right.

This can be done by having a good breakfast or by taking time in the morning to watch one of your favorite TV shows before work.

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If you are happy, you will find yourself able to work much more productively as your mind won’t wander into worrying about something else.

Also, if you stay optimistic and keep telling yourself that you can do whatever you set your mind to, the tasks will seem much less daunting and will go by much more quickly.

Take a look at more effective ways to stay positive at work:

15 Ways To Stay Positive At Work

Happiness and optimism are the keys to being a productive and happy employee.

All in all, heed the five tips above and you will find yourself being one of the most productive people at your company.

While you do not need to master them all, each and every one of them will help you become a better and more efficient employee.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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