February is a month usually dedicated to love, but sometimes things aren’t so rosy. So, you’ve started your business (or work at one you love), and everything is great. But the honeymoon can come to a screeching halt when you encounter the problem client. Everyone in business knows what I’m talking about. Over time, businesses find their identities and can better evaluate their potential customer base, but sometimes a faulty connection is made. But, like many bad relationships, sometimes we try and rationalize the situation. “But, they always pay me on time.” “They’re not that bad.” “At least they bad-mouthed me in person and not online!”

But, no matter what we tell ourselves, holding on to problem clients will add more trouble and even more expenses in the long run. Whether they are eating into your time or your profit margin, problem clients are a waste of resources and need to be removed from your roster. So, how do you break up with a client when things aren’t going as planned? The solution can be complicated, so we’ve curated some tips from the best and brightest to help you through the transition.

  1. Make sure that with each “break-up” you spend time focusing on the root of the problem. This will help you prevent future failures. Honing in on who your ideal client is will help in your marketing and ultimately who you choose to work with.
  2. Be professional. It’s easy to play the blame game, but who knows where your company and the client may be in a few years. Just because it’s not working out now, doesn’t mean it can’t ever.
  3. Explain the situation and offer a potential solution. If your model has changed and they are no longer “right” for your business (or vice versa), say so. Perhaps there’s a competitor that would be better suited to meet their needs? Being direct (and polite) saves both of you time and energy.
  4. Set expectations for the transition. Give your client enough notice to find a replacement vendor/service and give them your plan of action. What will happen to their records and property? When will your last interaction be? Who will be their point of contact if there is an issue left unresolved? How will they be reimbursed for unfulfilled work?
  5. Adjust your vetting process. An initial meeting may seem like a waste of time when someone wants to pay for your products/services, but a simple intake process can ensure everyone is on the same page. If you have other employees integrated into this process, try a form for information collection and reserve final decisions for management. Work your deal-breakers into staff training and stick to your company culture to build consistency.
  6. Avoid awkwardness by scheduling a call, rather than a face-to-face meeting, unless they’ve been a client for a long time. Don’t blindside them. Instead arrange for a time that you can “speak frankly about the future of your business relationship.” They will probably know what to anticipate which will ultimately make your job easier. And don’t forget…no one likes to be dumped via email.

Even if the situation makes you feel uncomfortable, the client will eventually, if not immediately, appreciate your honesty.

Do these kinds of issues overwhelm or intrigue you? Want some individual assistance improving your business practices and processes? We’re happy to help! Call our office at (337) 740-0433 to set up a visitation.

Published in the Abbeville Meridional, 2.15.17