Customer service Training & Development

When It’s Best to Lose a Customer or Client

Despite the best intentions, there are times when it’s necessary to give up a customer or client. The reasons vary, as I learned when I asked colleagues why they stopped working with customers.

In their own words (and in no particular order), here’s what they said about terminating customer/client relationships.

It’s time to cut a customer/client loose when …

  • “Every time we did work for this one company, the marketing director would go out of her way to find 40 things wrong with the project to try to get it for free.” Ad agency executive
  • “1) The client/customer becomes abusive to you or your staff, 2) lies to you, and 3) doesn’t pay his or her bills. Not always in that order.” Marketing researcher
  • “You’ve lost enthusiasm for them.” Ron Strauss, Founder and CEO, Brandzone
  • “1) Project after project, year after year the business isn’t profitable. 2) They don’t respect your team — meaning they take advantage of the client/vendor relationship and always are mean, disrespectful and basically just not nice! This leads to a heavy toll on your team and usually means more turnover.” CEO research supplier

It’s time to cut a customer/client loose when …

  • “Your work together is no longer fun or engaging for both of you, lacks mutual respect or when there is a mismatch of values.” Jane Wells Schooley, Executive Leadership Coach and Educator
  • “The relationship has deteriorated to the point that it is affecting staff morale.” Marketing Consultant
  • “They are asking you to do something that goes against your ethics or your professional judgment.” Dennis Fischman, Chief Communicator, Communicate! Consulting
  • “They are not ‘all in.’ Meaning they are not doing the work, engaged in conversation, or showing progress.” Meridith Elliott Powell, Business Growth Expert & Keynote Speaker
  • “The thrill is gone; i.e., when I’ve lost enthusiasm for the project due to any number of circumstances including (a) the client is never satisfied; (b) the client is unresponsive and/or uncooperative; (c) the client hasn’t paid for work I’ve already done; etc.” Writer/editor

It’s time to cut a customer/client loose when …

  • You find you can no longer serve their interests in good faith and are on the border of losing your professionalism.” Senior Communications Consultant with a 20+ year history in consulting
  • They’re yanking your chain. When a client does not provide the necessary information for you to be able to complete their work in a timely manner. I understand ‘what can happen will happen’when it comes to business. However, I also know when they’re procrastinating with the tasks at hand. Client satisfaction travels on a two-way street.” Chuck Holder  LLC, Business Consulting
  • “They say ‘your competition is saying they can do it for $X.’  The reason that is a ‘move on’ statement is two-fold:
    1. They’ve already been talking to my competition to get a price which means they don’t see me as a partner anymore but simply another ‘vendor.’ Normally, if you’re a partner, they would address pricing way before they get a quote from a competitor and may even tell you they will be checking to see what the market is showing for your services. That is normal. Doing it behind your back shows a lack of respect for the relationship.
    2. They’ve decided what you are providing is a commodity and can be bought on the open market. Somehow your ‘unique’ value-add that got you the business (assuming you didn’t buy it in the first place with the lowest bid) is no longer unique nor value-add. You’re just another line item.
      These two things combined typically mean you’ve moved past a collaborative, supportive, reciprocal business relationship and have entered the dreaded ‘vendor zone.'” Paul Hebert, Senior Director, Solutions Architecture, Creative Group, Inc.

Respect and trust matter in professional business relationships — among service providers and their customers/clients.

Special thanks to the business professionals who shared their responses here. (Names or general titles listed by respondent preference.)


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