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Bearing in mind the saying that 5% of your customers cause 95% of your hassles...

I've identified my 5%, i.e. one customer who really annoys me on a regular basis.

So what's the best way to 'sack' this customer ? In other words, how do I tell them that I will no longer be providing services to them ?

For information - I develop websites, host them and maintain them. I charge yearly and there's nothing in my contracts to disallow me sacking them.

15

I think the rule is 80/20. 80% of complaints from 20% of customers. It applies to so many things like 20% of your carpet will get 80% of the wear and tear etc.

It is a great question and one I have come across myself so I smiled a bit when I saw your question. I have done it the good way and the bad way.

The bad way. I wrote to the customer and told them that when their hosting expired in 6 weeks time that they will need to find an alternate host. This was because the level of support and assistance they required was outside the service levels we were offering and we could no longer support their website. The fuss, the to-ing and fro-ing and the general hassle that resulted was immeasurable.

The good way. With another customer I wrote to them to say that we are no longer offering pure hosting services, and that our full annual management fee is £xxx (some generally horribly high figure). As your business does not require this level of support or assistance, we would recommend this host (name some cheap alternative) that will match your needs for a fraction of the cost. We are sorry to be losing you but, once you have opened an account we will gladly FTP your files and database contents to your new host. To take advantage of this simply email us with your new account details and we will transfer all your data for free. Alternatively you are welcome to continue with our services at the higher price.

If they stay, they pay. If they go, you spend 30 mins transferring their data for them and you are free. Believe me, that you will spend a lot longer than 30mins dealing with a 'go away' type letter, and they will leave thinking 'what a nice company, helping us out like that and saving us money'.

Good luck with it though, whatever you do, do not tell them it is because they are a pain.

  • 1
    +1 for not burning bridges. I've used a similar approach in the past and I think none of the customers picked me up on the offer to help. – lon124 Sep 28 '16 at 11:01
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    I'd also add that while it might seem daunting to fire customers, it's a fairly normal part of your business day to day and shows maturity in how you manage the business. Stay professional, don't burn bridges and get it over with quickly. Then pat yourself on the back, feel the weight lifted + get on with what is really important to you. – lon124 Sep 28 '16 at 11:03
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Make sure all your invoices with this customer are paid first.

Use this: "due to changes in our business model," or "due to changes in our business priorities", blah blah blah, "as of (some date) we will no longer be able to support your needs as one of our customers."

There's no need to get into the details as to why. Don't refer the customer to anyone you like - send the customer to one of the "gig" websites, and let 'em go. Smile! No more messy customer!

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I have used both of these. I find that customers who become bad ones usually do so because I'm not communicating effectively to set expectations. But sometimes you just have bad customers and I think either of the above is a good way to do it

  • There are people that think it is good business to simply screw suppliers, not pay bills until the last possible second, to complain because they think they will get something for free, and to demand more and more for less and less. They actually think this is what a good businessman does. Personally, I think good business people know it is about win win, not win lose (to use that eighties phraseology). – PaulD Sep 28 '16 at 18:35
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Once you are sure you do not want to work with this customer, make sure all of their invoices are paid in full, and simply say no to future service. It's really difficult to think of specific ways to handle this without details. Generally, I would say something like, "Attached, please find your receipt for your final payment. As of (DATE), this account will close. Thank you very much for your business over the past year. It has been a pleasure serving you, and we wish you the best in your future endeavors." I call this a twist on the assumptive close. You word things in ways that simply assume the conclusion you want.

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