Unhappy customer

Why you should drop your worst customers

Posted by / Blog

“Deliberately dropping customers? Surely, that’s not a good idea. We want more customers, not fewer!” It sounds counter-intuitive, but some customers are more effort than they’re worth, and their negative word-of-mouth can damage your reputation and sales. Ultimately, if you can’t make them happy and keep them happy – you don’t want them as customers.

Let’s face it: sometimes companies get the purchase process all wrong. They’ve bought the wrong thing because they didn’t put enough thought into what they needed in the first place. Maybe they shot for the moon and went for something they weren’t ready for.

When it happens, company culture often gets in the way of simply admitting it was a mistake. Somebody has to take the blame. Sometimes people get fired.  But in many cases, the vendor takes the rap. What is, in reality, simply a poor fit with requirements gets “rebranded” on the internal grapevine as “bad technology”. The vendor/technology becomes a pariah – it has to, in order to deflect blame away from the people that made the purchase decision. Effectively, the blame is outsourced (passing the buck is almost always an unspoken driver for any type of outsourcing). But ultimately, it comes down to the fact that the organization bought the wrong product. Maybe it was “oversold”. Maybe the salesperson took advantage of the fact that the customer didn’t really know what they wanted. Maybe they just got the implementation wrong. 55-70% of CRM implementations fail; not because it’s the wrong technology but because it’s being applied in the wrong way and it doesn’t fit with the organization.

Whichever way it happened, the customer now has something to moan about. Statistics show that one unhappy customer can scare off 30 new customers. At this juncture you have a choice: throw resources at the customer to get them back on the path to happiness (which might include significant product development), or simply let them go. It depends: how steep is the hill you need to climb to get them smiling again? Is there any hope of turning the situation around? And what will be the impact on your other customers if you divert resources to pleasing just one? If what they really want is something outside of your market niche, it might not be worth it. They’ll be forcing you to extend your product into another category.

Sometimes it’s best to just cut the customer loose. The chances are they’ll repeat the process with a competitor and spend the next year or so moaning about them instead. It sounds harsh, but some customers are never happy…and never will be. Often because they’re shopping in the wrong market, or their destructive company culture tears everything that is new apart.

So, customers can trip up when they’re selecting enterprise technology, but there’s a flipside to this argument: Why did you sell to them in the first place? Overzealous salespeople chasing commissions want customers to sign on the line that is dotted. They’re not too concerned about what happens down the line.  An unhappy customer isn’t their problem. So, it’s not uncommon for a salesperson to take advantage of customers who have more of an idea about what they want than what they actually need.

Some customers are more effort than they're worth.

Salespeople ought to think beyond their quarterly targets and consider the future. Consider this: In a year’s time, if a prospect asks the customer about your products/services, what are they going to say? Will it be positive? Is what they say going to help you, as a salesperson, close the sale with the prospect – or is it going to push them towards a competitor? If the technology wasn’t right for them, they’re going to blame you – and do so publicly. How is that going to help you sell to the next guy?

Instead, start by helping the prospect work out what they need. If it turns out they don’t need you, it’s no big deal. By helping them you’ve earned their trust and given them a positive image of your brand – and they’re likely to recommend your organization to their peers even though they didn’t buy from you. Brand advocates aren’t always customers, and customers aren’t always advocates.

Don’t oversell your products. When you create high expectations, you set yourself up for a fall. Remember, one unhappy customer can turn off 30 prospects. Multiply that by your average sale value and you can quantify the potential cost of a brand detractor. Plus, when you get “a bit creative” with what your products can do, you create expensive problems for consultants and support people when the customer tries to jam a square peg in a round hole.

When the customer is right for you, and you are right for the customer, help them get the value you promised. The relationship doesn’t end with a signature. By helping them to implement your technology, you can drive their success and create a brand advocate in the process.

Don’t be afraid to walk away from a sale, or point a “problem” customer in a different direction.

Find out more about the value of brand advocates and how you can harness the customer voice with our Advocate Marketing software


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