When and How To Fire a Customer: Pre-qualification 101

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Making Sure The Customer Fits Your Business

If you have never heard us say here at BB, “the customer is not always right,” then let us say it again “the customer is not always right.” Many customer service experts have argued with us but when it comes down to the root of this they all conclude the same thing we preach and know that it’s true. Most of your customers are great customers but it’s that small percentage of those customers that seek a business out to get something for free (as we call aka CustoMonsters).

We are going to give you a real example of how to pre-qualify your customer before you hire them and the red flags of a customer that will take up your time, cost you money and bring on a entirely large headache…

A few weeks ago we had a customer call our office on a Thursday wanting someone to come out for a fence bid to his house on that Friday or Saturday. We were pretty booked on Friday but found an open window and one of our guys would be down that way already so he could swing by and take a look at the property. Our employee comes back and says “the first thing the guy did was hand me this proposal and said we had to sign his contract to move forward with the work.” Of course a red flag immediately went up in my mind. You don’t sign contracts with customers, they sign contracts with your business. I read through the contract and immediately the red flags started flying that this customer was going to be a pain to deal with. I showed the contract to Paula and she immediately saw the red flags too.

I waited until Monday to give the customer a call to touch base with him. I knew we didn’t want to hire him as a customer of ours from what we already saw written between the lines but I wanted to talk with him over the phone and address a few things. We chatted a bit about the project and I told him “I’ve got to be upfront about this contract you sent over. We are not going to sign it because we have our own contract you need to sign.” Immediately he jumped at me saying “It’s not a contract!” As I stared at the contract and writing on the wall:

I replied with “Well, sir it is a contract and it clearly states that on the contract. We require a 40% down payment upfront for materials and the rest is due on completion. We have been in business for over 25 years and we do amazing work so that is not the issue here.” He replied with “Apparently you don’t know squat young lady because I have been doing this a lot longer than you have and I’ll be damned if you challenge that.” As I fought back the words that really came to mind I said to him “Sir, we are successful and take pride in our work and have quite a few years of experience too which is why I think you should hire another contractor for this project.” He raises his voice again and says “It’s not a contract and why would I have to sign your contract?!” As I shake my head while thinking “did he just miss what I said?,” I replied back with “It is a contract and I’m telling you right now that we don’t need your business. Thank you and have a great day.” Then he says “No other contractor has had a problem with this contract.” I kindly say “I thought it wasn’t a contract? Then if they don’t have a problem with it, you should hire them for your fence project.” Then all I heard was “click.”

I’m going to admit I was hot when I got off the phone but simply because I was calling to be nice and give him a chance before we nixed him as a customer based on the red flag contract. After speaking to him for 2 minutes, it was apparent he was not the customer for us. We couldn’t leave you hanging so here’s the contract and what you need to watch out for as a business owner with your own customers: Page 1Page 2 & Page 3

Many are going to tell you that “the customer is always right” or even as the guy on Pinterest commented on our post “The truth is that the customer may not always be right, but the customer is always the customer!” Yes, customers are your bread and butter as a business owner BUT just as a customer pre-qualifies a business to hire, you as a business have to pre-qualify your customers to make sure they “fit” your business. Ultimately, bad customers take time away from your good customers and even they will take notice. Before you jump and hire any and every customer just remember that “quality over quantity” applies to your customers too. And as always you can collect from those customers who you did business with that still have yet to pay you with our tool, BusinessBeware.Biz 

Have you ever had a customer you had to fire before you even worked with them? (If you did, then good for you and for standing up for YOUR business)

About

Ashley is the co-founder and co-host of Business Beware. Her passion is learning the background of how and why a business started and of course bringing a little laughter to business owners everyday. Proud member of the YEC too.

6 Comments

  1. Nick H. /

    That is insane!! Why on earth would he think that he could have you sign a contract with him?! I’ve had to fire some customers but that is just crazy. Thanks for sharing and thank you for sharing with business owners why the customer is not always right. It’s about time someone stuck it to the experts out there.

  2. Helen Rhinewalt /

    What customer writes a contract??? The crazy part is that you even tried to reach out and give him a chance but of course he was rude about it. I agree, pre-qualifying customers is just something you have to do.

    ps – loving the bodisms! keep them coming!

  3. Chris Harrison /

    I attended a conference a few weeks ago and that’s all they said over and over…the customer is always right no matter what they say or do. If people instill this in new business owners, they are not going to have a clue that they need to make sure the customer is someone they want to work with rather than doing anything and everything they want. Thanks for sharing the story and the contract!

  4. Ashley /

    Nick, thank you for the support and you can count on us to let experts know that as a business owner you have every right to fire a customer when it’s necessary. 🙂

  5. Ashley /

    Yeah, I wanted to give him a chance before I jumped to conclusions since I was not the one out there at the first meeting. But he showed his true colors and we’re better off for making the decision we did. It definitely is a must Helen and glad you agree! And yes, the Bodisms are definitely getting ready to be everywhere. 🙂

  6. Ashley /

    It’s true Chris and too many people are preaching that no matter how rude a customer is to your or your employees that you need to make them happy. If it’s your fault as a business owner then by all means you should fix it or reach out to them. But if they cause the problems then it’s up to you to make the decision if it’s worth it to work with them. Our goal is definitely to educate those who are trying to learn how to deal with customers as a new or even seasoned business owner. BB in the da house… 😉

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