When to jettison a customer?


A times comes in the life of every organization when he has to jettison the customer. Or at least think critically about serving the customer any further….Here are some pointers for your consumption….

# 1. When a customer gets on to the table with a ‘know-all’ mind-set, and since he is spending the money, so he can not be wrong. – First things first, Thanks for spending the money, but are you spending the money to prove someone wrong or to continue doing  business effectively? Your claim about knowing all is fine with me, however I would like you to do it on your own if you really know it all. Unless you are ready to believe in my expertise, why waste your time and money with me? You believed in my capabilities by paying for the product or services, now is the time for me to pay back by delivering what ever has been promised. You have to trust me to start getting things done!

# 2. When a customer refuses to learn – In most cases, a customer expects that a certain product or service will change his life. That’s a fair expectation to have, as long as he is paying for those services and products. But the customer often forgets that he need to know (or learn) how to use those products or services. Some customer simply resist any sort of learning, and still want to see the return on their expenditure. Any product or service, comes with an unwritten rule – You need to learn how to use it, or else you will keep using a mobile phone as a paper weight! The sooner you start learning, the more gets delivered by my products and services!

# 3. When a customer refuses to set his expectations and fix a timeline – Often, customers don’t know what they really need. Such customers when approached by business development guys get convinced for what is being offered to him in the product or service. However, such customers still remain unsure about their needs, and that is one reason why they almost never set a list of targets to achieve and some actionable items which could be worked upon. They simply want magic to happen without defining the word ‘magic’. The moment you start defining and tracking the goals, the delivery gets robust!

# 4. When a customer won’t let you make progress – Customers, at a times, won’t let you make any progress in the project. They will put hurdles at each and every possible stage, to a limit where you will not be able to move at all. It will take months, instead of days to conclude even the simplest of the business decisions. You will literally waste your time waiting for the customer to appear in a better mood. Trust creates greater synergies!

# 5. When you have to under-serve other customers in order to serve this one customer – When your organizations starts under serving it’s other existing customers to keep this customer’s demands fulfilled, you need to rethink your strategy. Is it any good to be under-serving other customers in order to keep one customer happy? (Chances are very high that even this customer is not happy at all with your services.)  You are doing nothing but exhausting yourself while chasing the happiness for this customer. So, unless this particular customer is offering you the more than 50% of your current revenues, plan to leave him behind, he is doing no good to your business. Spare yourself to serve the remaining customers well. Believe that sometimes it’s better to let go!

All such customers don’t even realize that they are a massive pain to work with!

Whats worse? Working with such customers will let your employee’s morale touch the abyss.

Simply say NO to such customers. Serving such customers is nonviable in the long-run, and you will realize it with-in a few months that you simply can’t serve them happily. Such customers should be left alone to take care of themselves.

A start-up’s Litmus Test

Litmus in hydrochloric acid colores red.

Litmus in hydrochloric acid colores red. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you founded a start-up, or work with on, there is a litmus test you need to go through, if possible, as frequently as you can.

I ask the following four questions myself whenever I question the existence of the start-up I am associated with….(And if you are the owner/founder of the start, I encourage you to ask your team-members to anonymously answer these questions on a regular basis.)

Those 4 questions, in the order of priority, are:

1. Will you pay and use for the products & services offered by this organization? – An insider knows really well about the product/Services quality, understand the kind of customer focus the company has, and truly understand the value being offered in the core offerings. An insider ‘always’ knows whether he can recommend this service to his friends or family or not. An insider ‘certainly’ knows whether the amount charged is worth-it or not. So, it will always pay you rich dividends, if you ask your company folks this question, many times a year. If possible, ask them to participate in anonymous survey and let them speak what sucks and what rocks about the products and services.

[The results of this survey will usually throw you off the seat. Worth an attempt.]

2. Am I working with a team I wanted to work with? – Start-Ups (or, any other organizations) create customer delight only when they have a team they love to work with. Unless you team supports your activities, you are reduced to a one-man network. Every organization will have usual human behavior at play, and hence no one can deny the fact that there will be zero politics at work, and people will not create their own working rules and hierarchies (in their own minds); but these things start to pinch only when it become a daily hurdle for some employees to follow the ‘virtual’ politics, rules, and hierarchies.

[The results often indicate too much negativity, however it is a good indicator to the fact that there are some ‘speed-breakers’ in your office.]

3. Do you believe that the products and services have a market fit? – Your employees are the ones who are dealing with the ‘real’ market and the outside competition. Everyday they realize  the strengths and weaknesses of the products/services offerings. They deal with customers, competitors and market trends, they always keep a mind-note of all their observations, feedback, and trends, no one is in a better position than your employees that where your future lies. All you need is to collect their data points and paint a bigger picture of your ‘present’ story.

[There is no better SWOT analysis that this survey. The results often bring the competitors and customers on the focus. If you could then read the writing on the wall, you will have judicious choices to make.]

4. Are you able to see huge upsides? – Do your team-members believe that they are creating something which they would want to remain mentally associated with, even after they leave the organization? Will they keep highlighting this company on their resume? Will they  try leverage their efforts put here in their future organizations? Do they have great memories from this work-place? Are they hopeful?

[People who lack hope are the ones who have not been enthused enough to do a great job. And in absence of hope, people turn into –  a) time killing human bodies, b) working to pay the bills, c) create imaginary problems to remain relevant at workplace, d) waiting for another opportunity to appear. In all such cases, it’s the organization who suffers.]

Now, whoever you are, I sincerely suggest you to ask these questions to yourself. Some magic would soon start to happen! Trust me!


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