You might have heard of people say “The customer is always right,” and “Whatever the customer wants you should do.” Now, I am the first person to tell you that providing exceptional customer support in your business is a necessity – serving clients is the ONLY reason any of us are in business. And it’s an honor and privilege I certainly don’t take lightly – I’m sure you don’t either.
But unfortunately, not all clients are made equal. Some people have a PhD in complaining. Others just decide to perpetually get out of bed on the wrong side every morning. None of this happens to have anything to do with you. Some clients think because they’re paying you for a specific product or service that they actually own you – and have the right to treat you as they want… calling you all hours of the day and night, beating you up on price, changing the project specs on a whim with no advance warning, paying late, or in some instances not even paying you at all.
This doesn’t have anything to do with customer service. This is what I call ABC – Abuse By Client.
One of the worst ABC cases I’ve experienced was with a financial advisor who had very a high-end clientele in a posh part of town.
Over the years, he had managed to build a very successful business for himself, especially during the housing boom. But when the economy turned – as happened for many, his business dropped off substantially and the old way of attracting clients wasn’t working for him anymore.
In fact by the time he’d come to me for help with his marketing, he hadn’t had a new client in more than 2 years! You could say this guy needed my urgent attention!
When I look back on the whole experience I realized that this client had been waving some bright red flags from the very first consult. But I had felt a deep empathy for his situation and really wanted to help him.
That was Lesson Number One. When entering into a new business relationship – always, always listen to your intuition. If something doesn’t feel quite right then, at the very least, buy yourself some time to think things through before leaping headfirst into a decision you’ll surely regret.
After the initial consult, I spent a full day at his office doing an in-depth diagnostic and prescriptive consultation with him.
This is a critical, very deep dive where I overturn every aspect of a client’s existing business to see where the big hidden opportunities and low hanging fruit are. Except, not in this case.
Instead of letting me do the work he was paying me for, for the first half of the day all he did was talk about himself and his idea of how marketing should be (remember, this is a guy who hasn’t been able to get himself a new client in more than 2 years).
That was Lesson Number Two. If someone is looking to hire you for your services, but then turns around and tells you how they think you should do your job – run – don’t walk – away from that relationship.
You’re probably thinking I was out of there by now, right? Wrong. I kept on… thinking this was a “nice guy” who clearly really needed my help. He had the money to pay me... surely that was enough..
What gave me an ice cold bucket of reality was when it came to agreeing the details of our future working relationship. Suddenly, this nice and somewhat talkative guy became a tyrant. Wow, was I wrong! He made it perfectly clear that as he was going to be paying me a substantial sum of money (more than double what my currently monthly earnings were at the time), that he “owned” me. He also made it clear there was only one way of doing things – his way. And then he proceeded to beat me up over the head on price trying to extract every possible concession from me.
I began to lose sleep over the relationship. Every time he emailed me or called I would feel sick to my stomach.
That in itself is a massive warning sign that a client needs to go.
So I ended up withdrawing from the relationship. It was hard to do because I was walking away from a substantial amount of money and I didn’t have a whole lot else sitting in my pipeline.
But I realized the personal toll the relationship was taking on me wasn’t worth any amount of money. And I wasn’t being fair to my other clients because this guy was sucking the life out of me.
Having the guts to fire that client was one of the hardest and the best decisions I ever made. It gave me a real sense of freedom and empowerment that I really did have the power to choose who I did business with.
The day you stand up for yourself in your business and say “No – this isn’t how I want to be treated. No your behavior isn’t acceptable and no you’re not the kind of client I want to do business with” – is the day you’ve achieved massive success in your business.
It’s a fantastic feeling.
Saying “no” to the wrong kind of client also means you can say “yes” to the right kind. Not long after that difficult experience, I attracted one of my most favorite clients (we’re still working together today). If I had worked with the other gentleman I would have never have had the capacity to work with my dream client and that opportunity would have flown right by.