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Why Fire Your Customer?

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Sometimes The Customer is Wrong‼


and, sometimes your customer is an absolute Asshat, a treacherous snake ? in the grass that makes your life a living hell ?… Not all of them; in fact, most of your clientele are awesome, but there are bad apples. ?

“The Customer is always right” is an old school philosophy regarding customer service, ingrained in the masonry walls of the brick and mortar buildings of businesses; conjuring images of clientele who seemingly possessed more authority than the CEO of the establishment.. Heck, Stew Leonard’s has even had the words chiseled in stone (literally) in front of one of their supermarket locations. It does make perfect sense; after all, we do want happy customers. We are not mind readers so the thought process involved was solid in assuming that the only person who could tell us how to provide a patron with a satisfying shopping/purchasing decision was the patron him or herself.


It’s hard to win an argument with a smart person, but it’s damn near impossible to win an argument with a stupid person.” – Bill Murray

I would like to think that people are good and honest only seeking solutions that are a zero-sum game. Everyone involved desiring a resolution that is a true win/win where all parties involved achieve a mutually beneficial resolution. Like I said, I would like to think that; but I cannot. The truth of the matter is that sometimes you will come across a customer who is a real nudnick. No matter what you do, you are not going to be able to please them. They whittle away at your time, your patience, and ultimately at your profits. These parasitic abysses of discontent will eventually suck the life out of you and your business if you allow it.

“Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.” -Bruce Lee boasts that they can match an individual to their potential mate. Pairing a customer to a product or service takes no less skill. Bait and switch could be a factor in a failed coupling, though it could also be a much more honest error resulting from poor communication on the part of the service provider. It is essential to provide a clear expectation to those would be occupants of our accounts receivables lists. A well-written service agreement stating who is responsible for what, what your service includes and does not, as well as specifying what responsibilities are those of the customer should aid in minimizing misperception.

You’re Fired!” –  President Donald Trump

Okay, so we did all that. Signed service agreement in hand, but my customer is still a major PIA (Pain in the Arse). If they are demanding more and more of your time and are continually asking for items, or tasks, that your agreed upon level of service (What they are paying you for) does not include, they may not be your customer. An individual who continually requests applesauce is not going to be happy if you specialize in citrus and your offerings are grapefruits and oranges. If you are unable to sell them on the benefits of the higher vitamin C content, it is in the best interest of everyone involved to thank the singleton for visiting your grove and wish him or her luck in his or her search for a suitable orchard.

“Sign, signs, everywhere signs” – The Five Man Electrical Band

Did you see the signs? Does the customer seem squirrely? To avoid potential future issues we should establish a practice of vetting potential clientele. There are always indicators at the beginning of every relationship, no matter how subtle, that serve as clues providing insight into the path that a marriage will take. We are not talking about the traditional husband and wife ceremony, but the marriage between a company and its customers.

  • Did you have “Pre-service” Jitters?
    • Something just doesn’t feel right from the very start
  • Does the customer have a history of “divorce”?
    • Have they gone through a series of service companies
  • Do they complain nonstop about their ex?
    • Happy to tell you everything they hate about their last service company (Every chance they get)
  • Is your customer coming into the relationship with debt?
    • Do you remember the band?
  • Are they always right, meaning that you are always wrong?
  • Do they cheat on you?
    • Asking friends, neighbors, or competitors for advice on your service
    • Compare you to…. youtube????
  • Control Freak?
    • Monitoring and watching every move, you make.
  • Consider other key factors: Property appearance, unkempt lawn, dilapidated home, Late Payments, etc…

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“Nobody loves me but my mother, and she could be jivin’ too” – B.B. King

You just started your business and you need to build a clientele list if you are going to survive. I get it – we need to get money coming in. Maybe we are too excited to vet our new addition to the family, or maybe at this point it just does not matter. In either case, we somehow end up with the customers that nobody else wanted. We put up with a lot more than we would be willing to deal with if we were not just starting out. This is normal, but you have to go into this knowing that this is your “starter” customer and “starter” customers must have an expiration date. Remember, if you keep something beyond the expiration date, it will spoil and rot.

“If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm.” – Vince Lombardi

You started your company and built your service routes, but you notice that you are covering quite a large area and have accumulated a fair amount of “satellite” customers. A “satellite” customer is a client whose home or business is a good distance from that of the clusters of locations on your routes that have formed creating your service areas. You are now functioning as a “Star” service company. This is not a good thing. A “Star” service company operates in a logistical nightmare traveling great distances accruing vast amounts of windshield time in lieu of servicing accounts. You cover several counties in a single day to reach your clientele (One over here, than over there, another that way) in a giant star pattern across a county (or several counties), becoming the profitless “Star” service hobo.

☝ Does your service route look like this?

Rectifying this can all too often can involve “downsizing” and eliminating what would be the ideal customer if not for location. Sadly, a service pro does not make money while sitting in his or her truck. Understanding that Mel Gibson is the only one who can make money as a Road Warrior (Yes, I know Charlize Theron did it too and my comments do only apply to service routes), sometimes you will have to make tough decisions in order to reduce the amount of time and distance in-between customers, thus tightening your route. This comes down to basic customer management and segmentation. Identifying and eliminating customer locations that no longer make sense is essential.

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Rudy Stankowitz is a 30-year veteran of the swimming pool industry and President/CEO of Aquatic Facility Training & Consultants