Customer service writers talk a lot about “firing” customers. The discussion is an important one, as most people have a difficult time severing ties with problem customers. However, what is more difficult and rarely discussed is letting go of a good customer because you cannot meet their needs.
In these cases, the customer is not unreasonable nor overly demanding, they are just looking for a type of product or service that you cannot provide. Perhaps the product you offer has 80% of the features they are looking for, perhaps the service you provide is missing a few key extras to make it just right.
When there is a gulf between what you can provide and what the customer wants, you have two basic choices:
1) Find out how important the difference between what you provide and what they want really is. If you’re lucky, the difference is not material, and you can help them to focus on the value of what you do provide. However, if what remains in the gap between what you provide and what they expect really does matter to them, you have another choice:
2) Let them go.
Many in business do not believe in this concept. They will try to force the issue. Yet, this approach almost always results in a customer who is not happy and who eventually leaves with a negative view of the organization.
Sure, the person spent some more money with you in that time, but was it really worth it?
If you let customers go when you know you cannot provide them what they want, they can become among your biggest proponents, raving fans who are not customers.
For starters, letting the customer go is a selfless act rarely seen in business. Simply the contrast between that action and what the customer expects as normal creates an instant feeling of goodwill.
Additionally, the customer will be a much bigger evangelist for you if you end the relationship when it is in their best interest as opposed to milking them for every nickel while they gradually become frustrated by their unmet needs. If you push them down that unrewarding path, they will almost certainly become detractors for your business.
Letting go of a problem customer is hard; letting go of a good customer is even harder. But if you love your customers, sometimes you just have to set them free.
Have you ever had to let go of a good customer or even send them to a competitor?
By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.