Woman making stop gesture. Focus on a hand. Near the inscription STOP
Credit: Woman making stop gesture. Focus on a hand. Near the inscription STOP
Every business person has a story of the worst client that they ever dealt with. Every single one of us has made the mistake of taking on a client that they shouldn’t have. Sadly, however, there are a number of business people who seem to collect the dregs of the customer world.
You might be thinking, “a client’s a client” but that’s not true. If your customers are all douchebags… they’re hurting your business, they’re hurting you and this is why you need a policy to get rid of them.
The douchebag and their impact
Before we begin we need to define “the douchebag client”. It’s important to remember that this isn’t “every client who has ever caused us to feel angry, slighted or not quite good enough” – if that were the case having a douchebag policy might lead to very few clients indeed!
No. They’re the client who wants you to go the extra mile when they want to pay only for the first inch. They’re the customer who begins to shout and swear when they kick off any negotiation. In short, they’re the kind of person you would immediately identify as a douchebag if only you weren’t trying to extract some money from them.
The trouble with these clients is that while their money can be good, though it’s usually the bottom of the barrel bargain rate and which is held until the fat lady has sung, gone home and is in the bath, the impact they have on you and your business is never ending.
The overly demanding client is a constant source of stress. They call you up in the middle of the night with their latest great idea. They demand a discount when the job is done. They take and they take and they take and they never give in return.
You lose sleep, you lose money, worse, you lose the chance to work with better clients because your time keeps spiralling down the sink of the douchebag.
Is that why you went into business? To be miserable? To be bossed around by an ass? To be treated like a second-class citizen? I doubt it. If you’re honest one of the joys that’s supposed to come with being the boss is that you don’t have to feel like an employee any more. The douchebag thinks they’re your boss. They’re not.
What to do about the douchebag?
We like to apply a simple three strikes and you’re out policy. Any client can make you feel frustrated or uncomfortable, they don’t mean to, they’re just doing their job but sometimes doing their job can trample over your feelings. You don’t want to kick every client to the curb. Otherwise, you’re going to have bigger problems than the occasional complete git.
You want to focus on those that bring you pain on a regular basis. That’s why three-strikes. Once, and it’s probably just one of those things. Twice, and it’s time for you to have a chat with the client and explain that you’re a professional and that you expect to be treated with respect. Most clients get the message at this point.
But those that push the button of agony a third time? They’re gone. Send them a note giving them their freedom to find someone more suited to their needs. Collect any debts they may owe and then forget about them. The energy you get back from waving goodbye will more than offset the temporarily lost cashflow, you’ll be winning new (and great) clients before you know it.