We have all heard the expression, “The customer is always right.” Well, contrary to popular belief, I don’t think it’s true. In fact, most times the customer is usually wrong. But here is the thing most people forget – the customer is in charge.

When you say no to customers, you can plan on also saying goodbye to their business. Customers are people too, and they want to feel special, important and respected. In today’s world, it is hard to get exceptional service, or even to be treated nicely.

We spend so much on advertising, promotion and marketing, so we can get customers to notice us. Then, in so many instances, we treat them poorly when they decide to spend money with our company. This is wrong, and we still do nothing about it. Most of our business is good business, with reasonable people who want only to get what they expect.

But what about that 2% to 3% of our customers who just plain suck? You know those whiny, nonstop complaining customers who have nothing better to do than to try to ruin our days. These are the people who talk down to us, use abusive language, yell, scream and basically treat us like dirt. So, what should we do here?

Remember “The Little Rascals” with Spanky, Alfalfa and Buckwheat? They had a gesture where they put their hand under their chin and waved it toward the other person. This was called “the high sign.” In other words, it was meant to say so long, goodbye, get outta here. We should thank them for a concept we can still use in the business world 50 years later but are sometimes afraid to. Yes, you heard correctly, give the high sign to those lousy customers, move on and concentrate on the good ones.

Here are some things to think about when sending a customer packing:

• Take the emotion out of it. If you are the person in the middle and are being treated poorly, gather your data. Take them to your superior, who can make a decision based on the facts, and not just your feelings.

• If the business is not profitable due to all the time spent hand-holding, do some math. If the future of the relationship looks unprofitable, it is time to part ways with that client.

• If you do say goodbye to the business, what is going to make up for that loss of revenue? Do you have the business in future prospects, or is it going to be too hard to find?

• Like a marriage, most problems are attributed to a lack of communication. So here you must meet the client, go over their concerns (if they are not a raving lunatic and foaming at the mouth), and then go over yours in an attempt at a fresh start.

• Remember the golden rule, no, wait a minute, I mean the platinum rule, made famous by author Tony Allessandra. “Treat people the way they want to be treated.” It might be different from what you’re used to, but remember, they still are in charge.

Even the best companies screw up once in a while, and it’s hard to keep all customers happy all the time, but respect is a different matter altogether. If you want to be treated with respect, you must be respectful toward others. But sometimes it sure feels good to say goodbye to a customer and free yourself up for more time to take care of the good ones that are fun to serve.


Hal Becker is a nationally known speaker on sales and customer service. He is the author of numerous business books including two national best sellers “Can I Have 5 Minutes Of Your Time?” and “Lip Service.” Hal’s newest book on sales is titled “Ultimate Sales Book.” He can be reached at Halbecker.com.

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Letters, commentaries and opinions appearing in the Cleveland Jewish News do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company, its board, officers or staff.

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