THE BLOG

Ugly Customers

09/26/2013 05:59 pm ET | Updated Oct 09, 2014

In my last posting I wrote about responding to errors and how important your actions are as the business owner. Now, I'd like you to look at your response to unreasonable disruptive customers.

Customers come in different types. Like the old Clint Eastwood movie, "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly," customers often run the full gamut.

We can't always have the pleasure of working with the good customers, who are nice and friendly and who actually appreciate our products or services. Sometimes we have to deal with the other types - the bad and the ugly.

You know the ones--you can never please them, something is always wrong, you haven't followed their instructions to the letter. You forgot to cross a "t" or dot the "i." You dread their phone calls and e-mails. Your staff cringes when they have to interact with them. The air gets sucked out of the room when they are around. Not a good situation, and you know it.

You've wondered why they remain customers. You provide them with the same level of high-quality service, the same pricing and the same production standards that you give to all your customers.

Every business bone in your body says you have to fix the problem.

So you steel your spine and try -- more than once -- to rehab the relationship, but you can't seem to make any significant progress. Are you wondering why? It's simple. They wake up that way - rude, nasty and unappreciative. They don't know how to behave any differently, either in their business or personal lives. You're not a psychiatrist, so don't even go there. You eventually have to accept the fact that it is what it is.

I'm not advocating firing clients, since they're so hard to acquire, but really, you need to draw a line at how much you're going to allow yourself and your company to endure. Unreasonable negativity is poisonous to you and all around you.

If you're backed up against the wall because the problem customer is a relatively large account, you need to recognize that having those types of "major" players can be dangerous. They can up and leave tomorrow, and where will you be then. So, if that's the case, you may have to persevere and suck it up. You have just learned a valuable lesson about having customers that can cripple you business - you no longer are the boss.

If, however, that's not the case, you need to have the courage to take necessary action. Treat that customer just like you would a problem employee, track the offenses make the call and state your case. Request behavior changes, and when all else fails, terminate the relationship. You, your staff and your company will be better off. Your energy will be focused on maintaining the customer relationships that are the heart and soul of your business. You'll have more energy to nurture your other accounts with vigor and consistency.

For the life of your company the customer is NOT always right.

If you would like to read more of Greg's published articles please visit the Lorraine Gregory Communications Group website.

This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.