As a business owner yourself, I know you've been in that place between profit and loss, where every client counts. And then along comes the toxic client. The client who:
- 'negotiates' hard, asking for more discounts on already discounted fees,
- regularly threatens to "take their business elsewhere",
- questions every.single.item on every.single.invoice, or
- tries to blame YOU for THEIR mistakes.
These are the clients that eat away at your bandwidth with endless demands and constant criticism. As a result, you pander to them because your business needs the revenue. But I'll bet you 20 to 1, they're also the client that you're always chasing for payment too.
I should point out here that I'm not talking about the clients who will kindly let you know when you've genuinely made a mistake or who, every now and then, have a last minute request where you have to drop everything to help them. Those clients help you to improve your processes and procedures and I've found that they're just as invested in my success as I am in theirs. (That's a big shout-out to the Sohovi Tribe there - THANK YOU !!)
No, I'm talking about the clients whose emails you dread opening or whose calls make you want to curl up and die. When you've updated the wazoo out of your processes to appease this client, provided endless 'goodwill discounts' for 'mistakes' the client insisted are your fault, or, when your team are now so jumpy when doing work for this client that you've had to take on some of the work yourself, then you know you're dealing with your very own 'client from hell'.
Do you need to burn some bridges?
These clients are taking up too much of your time, so recognise that they do not value you or your work. The cost to your business may be a lot higher than just the time you're putting into this client. Opportunities may be slipping through the cracks because you're otherwise engaged, fighting the toxic fires. You, your team and your other clients deserve better.
So there's no more 'lying back and thinking of the motherland'. Strap in, because we're going to sort this crazy person out.
Suggestion 1 - Raise your prices or introduce a 'Pain in the Ass' (PITA) fee:
If this person is eating up your time with constantly changing, or increasing, demands, then they need to pay for it. And do not offer any discounts. Ever. Send them an email advising them that you're raising your prices in 2-3 months time. That will give them time to find another provider and they will move on, hopefully, gracefully. Alternatively, they'll stay, but at the very least, they'll be paying you what you're worth. If however, worse comes to worst, then you may have to resort to Suggestion 2.
Suggestion 2 - It's not me, it's you:
Advise them, straight up, that you see that you're 'not the right fit' for them. Give them a set amount of time to find a new provider, so they're not left in the lurch, but not too long. Let's face it, you do not want them to take up any more of your precious time than is absolutely necessary.
Suggestion 3 - Say 'Bye Felicia':
If they're being obnoxious or worse, abusive, then check your terms and conditions. You may have recourse under your terms to immediately sever the relationship. If you've received just the single abusive email, then depending on how aggressive the tone is, you may consider just suspending the client's services for a time until they calm down. This could be the circuit breaker to re-open a more civilised discourse. Or it may force their hand, and they move on, of their own accord, to another provider.
Alternatively, the abuse may escalate, in which case you may have grounds to terminate their account. Get yourself a voodoo doll and stab the living daylights out of it if you have to, just do anything to avoid sinking to their level. In any case, check those T&Cs and make sure you have a clause stating that you will not tolerate abuse of any kind, from any person.
Our free e-book Release has many more tips on how to say 'No' and other ways to beat the bedlam in your small business.
Click here to download our book and get started on controlling your chaos.