The old adage thatĀ the customer is always right is wrong – plain and simple. A company that finds itself constantly beholden to the whims of customers will experience higher levels of stress, not necessarily profit.

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of listening to George Roberts, former EVP of Oracle, talk about some of his business philosophies. He mentioned theĀ Anything for a Buck syndrome. Basically, it’s when a company will do anything for a buck.

Think of it like firing a shotgun rather than a rifle. With a shotgun, you spray bullets everywhere hoping to hit a target. It’s sloppy. But with a rifle, you take precision aim at your target and fire.

No distractions.

No mess.

So how do you know when it’s time to fire some customers?

The key criterion is whether or not this customer gets you to where you need to be. I’ve listed a few situations to help you think through some situations you may be experiencing.

  • You change your strategy
    At one time, Sally may have been a perfect fit for your company. What you offered and what she needed was complementary. But, you’ve changed your strategy. With new services or products, you can’t serve Sally very well anymore. In fact, she’s probably noticed and is becoming unhappy, causing complaint calls to your Customer Service department. If you are headed in different directions, then it may be time to fire Sally.
  • They require more effort than they are worth
    Some customers are just not worth the cost. They are so demanding that you realize that you just can’t service them well. These customers are a distraction. They cause you to lose focus.
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How to fire them

Obviously, turning customers away is a delicate business as you do not want a reputation of being difficult to work with.

  1. First, explain where you are going and see if the customer wants to go with you.
  2. If you need to fire the customer, then say something to the effect of, “We greatly appreciate your business and value you as a customer. However, we are not equipped to meet your needs and feel that it’s unfair to both you and us to try to.” Here’s an example client termination letter for a CPA firm but can easily be adapted to any situation.
  3. Don’t freak out.

Remember, this is your company and although you should work collaboratively with customers, you ultimately get to set the direction.