By Bryan Orr

Is it ever okay NOT to serve a customer and tell them “no?” Yes. Hopefully it’s rare, but there are cases that it’s best for your business to do so. Here are five reasons.

1. You can’t make a profit working for them.

There will be times you need to swallow a monetary loss; that is an expected and sometimes necessary part of doing business. But if you find yourself in a position with a customer where you’re losing money with them on every job, it’s time to politely communicate that under the circumstances, you will need to either increase your prices or move on.

This usually occurs when dealing with long-term customers who may have been profitable years ago but have become unprofitable as the business grows and costs increase. They may be unwilling to understand new processes and changes.

2. They give you an unreasonable ultimatum.

When you find yourself communicating with a customer, and they’re calling the shots and saying things that sound similar to: “If you can’t get my a/c running properly in order to get my energy bill lower, then I’m going to have to call the BBB.”

Let’s be 100% clear: If you are in the wrong, then you need to make it right, but there are people that have a habit of using these ultimatums on a regular basis to get what they want. When you have to deal with this rationale with a customer consistently, it may be time to make this the last job with them.

3. They don’t pay their bills.

Maybe you’ve got that dream customer, the one who is easy to deal with and is friendly to you and your team and talks great about you around town, but there is a glaring problem: You send them the invoice and they simply don’t pay their bills.

There have been many times I’ve emailed or called a customer to politely remind them of their payment that has now become overdue, and they will act as if it was simply lost in the shuffle of life, and they tell me the payment is now in the mail.  You’re gracious and understanding and wait…and the payment never comes. If this happens over and over with the same customer, you know that this is a legitimate reason why you can’t do business with them.

4. Your business model does not suit their needs.

As much as we want to be that business that serves all, some customers have specific desires that may not be conducive to your business model. You may not be that business, and you should clarify that with your customer. Be clear on what it is that you can do well for them and if it isn’t what they/you agree to come to terms with, simply let them go.

5. They are abusive to your staff.

We train and encourage our staff to handle elevated and varying emotions with our customers. Remember, when people are dealing with their own money, they can get pretty uptight! That’s understandable. However,  if you have a customer who is constantly berating, complaining, and harassing your team members, it’s time to consider the “health” of your team and possibly end the business relationship.

Early on in running my business it was difficult to accept that there were occasions I simply couldn’t serve a customer to their satisfaction. I wanted to be the business who could make it right no matter what. I’ve come to learn that it’s not feasible to do that 100% of the time. As long as I’m running my business in an ethical way and valuing others, I have to be willing to tell a customer “no” at the right time.

This has been a step in the right direction of personal growth, business health, and humble confidence as a leader.