Three Customers You Shouldn't Serve

This is the first post in a three-part series on customers you shouldn't serve.

The customer is always right and we certainly aim to please by going the extra mile and never, ever saying the word "No" if we can possibly help it.

Of course, you may be doing more harm than good if you don't identify the Three Customers You Shouldn't Serve. Yes, dear reader, I'm recommending you don't do business with these folks if you can help it. *GASP*

1. They want what you can't deliver well.

You wouldn't call a pizza place to buy a couch, go to a dentist for an oil change, or send your aqua-phobic dog to the dry cleaners for a bath would you? Of course not, but some customers want us to deliver far more than we ought to.

I recently had to replace the fabric on a lounge chair. I called Saddleback, the store that sold it to me, and they referred me to Tyler Uselman, an independent contractor. They knew they weren't experts at patio furniture repair, but Tyler was.  He came out to my house, did a great job on the repair, and I'm now very happy with both Tyler and Saddleback. By the way, Tyler's a whiz and charges very fair prices, so email him if your patio furniture needs sprucing up.

2. You can't serve them profitably.

Any smart business will take on a few expenses in the interest of customer goodwill, but you still need to make money on customers over the long run. It's best to end the relationship if your margins are so thin or your service costs are so high that you'll never make a profit.

I once had a client who often caused delays, additional expenses, and required additional time to complete projects for them. Since I was paid a flat rate per project, these unanticipated items made the work unprofitable over the long run. To top if off, the client typically paid late, so I usually had to spend more time chasing down their accounts payable department. I executed my duties to the best of my abilities, but we gracefully parted ways once our contract was up.

3. They are abusive.

There are certainly situations where customers have a right to be angry, but there's never an excuse for a customer to verbally abuse one of your employees. Curse words, insults, and threats have no place in customer service, even if they are coming from the customer.

Sadly, business owners and managers can be tempted to let a profitable customer get away with a little employee abuse. This short-sighted approach can lead to poor productivity, employee turnover, or worse yet, an employee lawsuit.

Stay tuned...

Next week, we'll discuss strategies for artfully handling these types of customers. In the meantime, I welcome your comments and suggestions for other types of customers we should avoid.