When Should I Fire a Customer?

July 15th, 2009 by | Print



I wrote a piece a couple of months back titled, “How Best to Handle Customer Conflict”. In this post, I chatted with you about how to assess whether, as a solopreneur, a customer is worth keeping and what to do about it. However, I was listening to a podcast that brought up this question, and the interviewee had another thought that I believe is worth bringing up.


Before I get to his point, let me flash back to the beginning of the previously mentioned post. In it I recommend that you quickly assess the future value of the customer; no sense wasting time on a time waster and non-profit producer. Regardless of whether the customer is nice or nasty matters little to the bottom line. Their disposition may influence your decision, but don’t let it blind you to the bigger issue of future value.


Now back to the podcast interviewee’s point that I wish I had included in my post; his quick assessment of three kinds of bad customers – the arrogant, the ignorant and the worst, a combination of both.


Let’s discuss all three and whether they should stay or go.


The Arrogant

Now although an arrogant customer may make your skin crawl every time they call, they still can be of value – both professionally and for your profitability. Typically, the arrogant become assuming braggarts because of accomplishments. If they are truly accomplished, then before you decide to give them the boot, take a deep breath, and assess if there is something that you can gain from the relationship.


Are they well connected? Can you network to other profitable customers through them?


Do they have something to teach you about their industry or business in general?


Success in a relationship with the arrogant often has control at its root – or the appearance of control. Working with the arrogant often means that you may take on the role of employee instead of being recognized as a valuable partner. Can you allow a relationship of teacher / student for their area of expertise?


When you are dealing in an area of your expertise, don’t be afraid to flex your professional muscle. The arrogant appreciate working with other high-energy, successful pros, too. If, however, this role playing is too tough for you to do, touch your index fingers to your thumbs, murmur “ohhhmmmm”, and think about the profitability in the relationship. Just try not to do it in public.


The Ignorant

Although stupidity can be tough to stomach on a regular basis, if the ignorant are still willing bring in the profitable business, you have the benefit of often taking control of the situation. The roles reverse in this relationship as compared to that with the arrogant – you become the teacher and they become the student. You may have to teach on an ongoing basis, but if it is bringing in the bucks, do you really care? Get over the annoyance and get on with business.


The Arrogant Ignoramus

This two-headed moronic, egotistical beast spewing idiotic statements in a high-handed manner has no value. As a matter of fact, they can be a cancer for your daily demeanor and your ability to make the most out of your working hours. So if anything, they are a negative value.


They will tie up your time trying to teach them how wrong they are about their ideas and then they will smugly dismiss you with their rebuttals. Don’t waste your time or your energy on these awful barbarians. As a solopreneur, you don’t have the staff to pass them off on an employee – and do you really want to?


Some customers just deserve a good firing.


All The Best,

Doug Dolan
The Solopreneur’s Guide


4 Responses to “When Should I Fire a Customer?”

  1. Paul Says:

    Thank goodness all my customers are perfect. :)

  2. Douglas Dolan Says:


    You’re one of the lucky ones. Hopefully you can do a good job of screening potential customers upfront so this doesn’t become a problem.

  3. Ed Martin Says:

    I had another version of these types, the I’m Too Big to be Fired. Not fun at all.

  4. Douglas Dolan Says:

    Thanks, Ed. Do you have your list somewhere that we could reference?


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