When To Fire A Toxic Customer

Years ago, while learning in my dad’s business, we had some customers that were called high maintenance customers. These guys would always find a reason to complain about everything we did. Our relationship services were never good enough no matter how hard and extreme we tried. Someday, one of the high maintenance guys bought some goods from us. Days later, he brought them back amidst many complaints: His wife didn’t like it, it wasn’t really his choice, it was even too expensive, and he would have bargained more. My dad smiled, collected the goods and refunded his money. Months later, when he came back to patronize us, my dad politely told him to check the next shop. He froze, thawed and left. When I asked my dad the reason for his action, he said: sometimes you just have to fire some customers and have peace.

In business, it is always wise to know when to fire a customer. I understand that core customer relationship rules admonish entrepreneurs to court, care and love their customers. But is it also a great thing to know when to let a customer go for the sake of maintaining a healthy business.

Some customers are too costly to maintain. And no matter what you serve them, how much you care for them, how much you try to make them happy, they will always find a way to sabotage your services and business reputation in the marketplace. If you look closely enough, you will often realize that these guys have personal emotional problems that are plaguing them. They allow these personal issues to determine how they react to issues outside. And you are a primary target when you are dealing with them.

The entrepreneur requires a very high level of emotional energy to run a business. Emotional energy is a very huge form of investment for an entrepreneur. Spending most of those energies on a few high maintenance customers is not a wise idea. It will drain your organization emotionally, leaving you spent. Sometimes, these customers might even be the high patronage ones. In this case, you have to choose between making plenty financial gains and enduring plenty emotional irritations and backlash while dealing with them.

Now, this does not give you a reason to shout back at the irritating customers. A core business rule is this: Never criticize or disrespect your customer, no matter how toxic they are. A customer relations policy should address this in the organization; it should also address circumstances that require letting customers go.

As a business, if you feel you can no longer deal with a customer because of their bad attitudes, you have to do it calmly and with a high level of respect. Sometimes, you even have to write the customers a Thank you letter, telling them how you have appreciated their patronages before stating the reason you are terminating the relationship. Every part of your business must be professionally handled.

However, before going to this extreme, make sure you have talked to these customers about the need to improve relationships. Ask them to tell you where you have wronged them or where your services are performing below par. Some will change at this point, while others will never change because being irritating and bickering is in their nature. They just cannot stop being that way.

Respect and courtesy are not just entrepreneurial traits; they are human traits. When customers fail to see entrepreneurs as humans and begin to treat them with utmost disdain and disrespect, it is often better to let them go. For good.

Value your customers so well. Also value them well enough to let them go when the time comes so you won’t jeopardize your services to them at the expense of your overall business.


is a thinker, content developer and business development strategist. He is the Principal of Richard & Malcolm Consulting; a business development company. Richard enjoys working with entrepreneurs and leaders pursuing transformational change for their organizations. He is the author of two books – The RICH Theory and Advance. Connect with him on twitter @RichardChilee

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