Dropping Troublesome Clients - A Guide

Scott Calonico

troublesome clientsDeciding whether to let go of an income stream is a tough business decision.

However, anyone who has been in business for a while knows that, from time to time, there will customers whose revenue fails to justify the hassle they cause.

While it may seem poor business sense to dispense with paying clients, continuing to work at troublesome customer relationships can drain internal morale, and leave no time to find clients who are simpler to work with.

So, how should you decide when to let go? Consider the following questions:

Does the client follow advice?

Clients who constantly defy your suggestions soon become stressful to work with. Most IT consultants have been in situations where they have recommended a dependable product or service, only to see their client swayed by an alternative sales pitch, leaving them to deal with the support implications of the decision. If this happens all the time, it should ring an alarm bell.

Is the client polite?

Rude and demanding clients are no fun to work with, and can quickly drain your team’s patience. If a client repeatedly upsets you or your staff, you must question whether their revenue is worth such negative feeling.

Does the client pay promptly?

It’s often the case that the more demanding and impolite clients are also those that consistently pay invoices late, creating a credit control overhead for your business.

Does the client take up a fair amount of your time?

Clients that are paying the same monthly fee should take a similar amount of time to support. If one client is consuming your company’s resources more than others, you need to question why. After all, it’s not fair on your other customers.

Does the client invest properly in their infrastructure?

Clients that refuse to spend money will leave you looking after aging equipment that takes up too much of your time.

If you answer “no” to more than a couple of these questions when thinking about a specific client, it’s might be time to let them go. 

Bidding farewell to a troublesome client can be a cathartic process, and your staff will likely thank you for it. However, you should always do so in the right way.

If you have a formal contract in place you should make sure you properly honor it. Similarly, it is only polite to make sure you are fully co-operative in your handover to a new service provider. Even if a client has behaved poorly towards your business, it doesn’t mean you should compromise your own professionalism. You may, sadly, need to prepare for a battle to obtain payment for your final invoice if the client is poor at paying invoices.

None of this precludes you, however, from being honest about your reasons for terminating the relationship. Your honesty may help you client to see the error of their ways – but probably not!