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How many of you out there have had a customer or client that no matter what you did, your customer was just not pleased. If you lowered your price, it wasn’t low enough. IF you included the cost of shipping, it was only a small percent. IF you offered 2 for 1, they wanted 3 for 1. IF you promised to deliver by Monday, they wanted it on Sunday. I’m sure you can add a few stories to the list.

So what do you do? I guess it depends on you, the business you’re in and the relationship you have with your customer or client. I remember once I was doing collections and I asked on for the amount overdue, not the current amount. Well the verbal abuse I received cannot be written. I concluded the conversation by explaining the amount I wanted and hung up. A few weeks later, the customer attended our major spring fashion show. He was talking to the owner of the company who came by to explain that the customer didn’t understand why I wasn’t talking to him (the owner knew the whole story from me). I replied, “When he apologizes to me I will most gladly engage in any future conversation”. The owner delivered the message, the customer did apologize and our future relationship proved to be an excellent one, even when I asked for money. Sometimes you just have to take a stand.

I want to make one point – taking a stand does not mean being rude. It means be firm. It means stay strong to your convictions. You do not want to lower yourself to the level of your customer or engage in a “tit-for- tat” dialogue. Be professional.

But there is another situation where the cost of doing business with your customer outgrows any profit you might make. This can be especially true when your product margins are low rendering little room for you to satisfy a customer ALL the time (there are times when you need to make right a wrong, of course, but that is not what I am talking about here). A good example is a customer who often buys wrong and returns merchandise more often than not. So what do you do? I would first try to have a face to face or heart to heart conversation with the customer. Put your cards on the table (again be nice), explain that you’re losing money because they are returning goods ordered far too often and ask them to look into making changes on their end to significantly reduce and eventually eliminate their constant returns. Failing that, I recommend that you part ways with that customer. Does this sound harsh? I don’t think so. BOTH companies are in business to make a profit, not just one. So you should not feel guilty that you need to fire your customer if you’re losing money because of his practices.

I offer consulting services to charities and not-for- profits. I have quoted the same basic rate since inception, seven years ago. On occasion, I will give a discount where I feel it’s warranted. When, however, I am asked to do work for free, I remind the potential client that I make my living through my consulting practice. I cannot volunteer for every possible organization. I, too, need to put food on the table. I am never sure if this is right or wrong, but this is where I always say, “No”. Over time, I have come to accept this and feel quite comfortable that I have done the right thing. I hope you do as well.