Unreasonable Customers Drain Your Company

I won’t write a long tirade on this one, at least for now, but I read this blog post today and thought I would share it over here as well. If you have ever dealt with customer service for a company, you know exactly who the vocal minority are I mentioned in a previous rant. They are the ones that make your life miserable, usually because a) they can, b) because they are mad at the world and know they can take it out on you, and c) they likely want something for free when it really shouldn’t be. Homestead.com’s CEO has good advice, fire ‘em. That’s right, get rid of those customers that are a drain on your company, allowing you to do more with those that both appreciate what you do, and are likely more profitable in the end.
Homestead.com is an outfit that provides hosting and web site creation tools. They have been around awhile, and years ago I remember trying out their free version. I haven’t done anything with them since, so I can’t comment on their specific situation. What is commented here generally though I have to agree is good advice for any service oriented company, particularly in the tech world?

From what I have read, this is quickly becoming a hot topic to discuss, with strong messages on both sides of the argument. I can understand this to be seemingly idiotic and business suicide from a customer perspective. This policy can also be abused by always thinking the company is right – there has to be some balance. Be willing to be wrong, but also be willing to act when someone else is wrong. We have all grown up hearing that the philosophy “the customer is always right” is the key to a successful business, but in today’s world, I can’t always side with that. There are a lot of demanding, unrealistic customers that are simply trying to get ahead at your expense. If they can get it cheap, free, or otherwise come out ahead, it doesn’t matter what they have to say or do to get there. That includes lying, cheating and acting as you have somehow committed an atrocity at their expense.

What makes this worse is the number of fraudsters out there using tactics against customer service departments, knowingly working the system simply to get something for free. Chargeback routines, threatening BBB and attorney general reports, and claiming shipped orders never arrived are just a few of the common practices people will use. This has grown to a level that even people you would never call an outright thief will do it, justifying that these online companies can afford it, so it is somehow ok to do.

On a level, less thieving is the tech company’s worst nightmare – the bargain-minded business enlisting their services. Small web development firms deal with type constantly. I spent years acquiring customers for my outfit I ran with some partners and great friends. We worked very hard to keep ourselves in business, and I am afraid often because we were willing to take on almost any contract, no matter the amount of work we had to agree to at any rate, just so as we had work and income coming in. I was likely the worst at this admittedly. We had a good business, though, and we enjoyed ourselves. Eventually, I left this company to pursue some other opportunities, which was a catalyst for some necessary changes in the company. Along the way, they changed their policy to “let go” the noisy, demanding and otherwise unprofitable customers and to better organize their bidding and billing procedures. Sure, they had some unhappy customers that went away, and some that stayed but complained about the apparent price increase; but in the end they are more profitable and living more sane lives as a result.

We can’t please everyone, especially those that can never be pleased. As a business, shoot for pleasing 90% of your customers, and in the end, you will be more successful. You will spend your time building and offering services or products that make the bulk of your customers happy, and you won’t be wasting time with the vocal minority that drains your resources trying to meet their demands. This is a valuable lesson for any entrepreneur to learn, hopefully, sooner than later in their business growth. Some sage advice, from a big-time CEO (Homestead) as well as a small time guy like me.