Every time I speak for a company and their employees on sales or customer service, I always hear, “Our industry or our business is a little different.” My answer is also always the same. “Every business is either for-profit or nonprofit, you either sell a product or a service, your best customers spend the most amount of money with you and your worst customers nickel-and-dime you to death.” Sound familiar? Well it is and it will always be that way.

The funny thing is that when you truly go overboard for a customer and do more for them than they are expecting, they will probably become one of your best and most loyal customers. I used to call this a creative opportunity. Our company goal was to look for problems and to have fun correcting them, trying to blow away the customer with the best and the most unexpected service they have ever had. Everyone was truly empowered and we all had a good time trying to please the customer regardless of the problem. The only thing that was important was the outcome.

That is the good news. The bad news is every company has 1% to 3% of its customer base can be a pain in the neck. I mean abusive, rude, mean and always demanding unrealistic expectations. These are the customers that take up  the most time and can make the day unpleasant for everyone. When you truly look at the total picture and get all the information regarding the client or customer, most of the time, the situation is unproductive and the client or customer costs you more money than you probably would make. When you factor in all the time lost to hold their hand or to get screamed at and then look at what you pay your employees, the customer or client now doesn’t look so hot.

What do you do? Remember the television show from the 1930s, “The Little Rascals,” and Spanky’s signature gesture, known as the “high sign?” That’s right, the old see ya later. You probably figured out by now I am talking about “86ing” the customer or just getting rid of them. I promise it will be fun and all the employees will rally for this cause.

I know what you are saying, “But Hal, we just cannot afford to lose clients or simply get rid of them. We will lose revenue.” 

Wake up and smell the cappuccino. The problem is not lost revenue. Instead, you now will have more time to work on getting new clients and spending more time with the existing and fun ones. 

This can be a big morale builder in your company and the bottom line is this client cleansing will create more enthusiasm and bring people together of any company picnic you plan. This can be looked at as a game or a team-building exercise. You can even go as far as asking your employees which customers they would like to get rid of if possible and why. Make this an essay contest and the winner gets a beautiful dinner for two at an expensive restaurant. It will be surprising. It will make all of your employees take a long, hard look at your customer base and bring things out you were never aware of. 

Remember, business should be fun and it is the employees who can make it a fun business. They will always be your most important asset. Look at replacing clients as an event or a way to make your business better and more productive.

Rules to say goodbye to a client:

  • Get all the facts and figures and look at the empirical data.
  • Get senior management involved to get a better and stronger consensus.
  • Do not let your emotions play a role  in the situation. Rely on logic.
  • Have fun doing this and look at the positives and not the negatives.
  • Make sure that you have the new business in hand to replace the former customer.

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.


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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