#14 Lunch and learn: Sack a cantankerous customer so you can spend more time with an appreciative one

Written by  //  March 15, 2012  //  Daily Juice  //  No comments

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Recipe: How to spot and sack a bullying customer

Good bye word in hand
Today’s recipe is inspired by this witty little story from Southwest Airlines:

Mrs Crabapple flew regularly on Southwest Airlines. After every flight she would write to the company to complain about some aspect of the service, be it the look of the uniforms, the lack of catering or the absence of a first class section.

At their wits’ end, the customer service team sent Mrs Crabapple’s final letter to the CEO Herb Kelleher.

He quickly wrote her a reply:

“Dear Mrs Crabapple, We will miss you. Love, Herb”

What it is:

A directive to sack customers that bully you or make your life otherwise unpleasant!

Why it works:

Cantankerous customers suck up time with the effectiveness of a Dyson. If you do the maths you’ll quickly see that what they bring you in terms of profit is completely negated by what they cost you in aggro.

What you do:

Step 1:

Write on a piece of paper and stick to the wall in front of you “The customer is not always right”

Harry Gordon Selfridge is to blame for this misunderstanding. He was the founder of the divine London department store which bears his name. In 1909 in a drive to make customers feel special he told his staff “remember the customer is always right’. Apparently he never meant anyone to take it literally, but that part of the message got lost.

Step 2: 

If you have a customer that is making your life fairly unpleasant with their behaviour work through these questions:

  1. How many times does the customer raise concerns?
  2. What tone does the customer use to do so?
  3. What action does the customer expect you to take?
  4. Does the customer make threats?
  5. Are the customer’s concerns relevant to your business? (In the Southwest Airlines example at the top of the page, the airline prides itself on being ‘no frills’ so the criticisms aren’t relevant)
  6. How much time do you spend dealing with this customer?
  7. How much time do you spend dealing with your best customer?
  8. How does the time in #7 compare with the time in #8?

Step 3:

The next time the cantankerous customer contacts you, sack them.

I’d be gracious and say to them something along the lines of “I don’t think we are the right business for you to work with”.

But if you want to be really smart, refer them to your main competitor.


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