Steps to consider when firing a bad customer

  1. Work super-hard to fix their issues first
  2. If it’s them (they will never be happy), grit your teeth, then
  3. Reframe the issue as a misalignment, not a fault
  4. Keep it classy. Don’t give or accept blame.
  5. Refund their last payment

Why should you fire a bad customer, anyway?

If you are genuinely in the business of delivering great service to your clients, anything that gets in the way of that must be fixed. Just as equally (maybe even more so), if you value your staff and want them to grow, anything that gets in the way of their growth must be fixed.

How should you fire a bad customer?

Barbara Findlay Schenck wrote an article in Entrepreneur called ‘When and How to Fire Your Customers‘ and her advice is pretty simple:

  • Get proactive – focus on the profitable 80%
  • Get reactive if it gets nasty
  • Keep it classy

Len Markidan wrote in GrooveHQ’s blog ‘Why it’s OK to Fire Your Bad Customers

  • Don’t fire difficult customers, only bad ones
  • The difference is whether the issue is them or you / your product
  • Must do it to serve other customers really well
  • Reframe it and do it with grace
  • Refund the last round of fees

You can see from my conclusions at the top of today’s blog that I agree with both of these contributors.

Karl Walinskas on recounts a story of getting sacked for the wrong reasons and in the wrong way in his article ‘The Fire Your Customers Myth‘. Despite the title, he isn’t arguing that we shouldn’t fire bad customers. Had he read the first two sources I cited, I suspect he’d agree. His story though is worth reading as a great example of how to not fire a customer.

My thoughts?

I learned from the work of author Jim Collins that great companies hire staff when they have the right person even if there’s no work and sack or move people who are wrong or in the wrong seat even when they are too busy to let anyone go. I’m simplifying, of course.

I feel the same is true of customers. If you have one who is not happy with your work, work harder to make them happy. They deserve it and so do you. Turnarounds are seriously rewarding. If that is NEVER going to work, then move on. You’ll both profit.

Why offer a refund if the problem is them?

The short answer is that it’s almost never just them. The most professional service business in the world makes errors and is a great fit for some businesses, but not a great fit for others.

Bad blood is bad business. Reframing the issue as a misalignment, not a game of “whose fault is it?”, allows your customer to find a partner who is a better fit, and for you to do the same. Both sides get to hold their head high.

And the refund? It’s a gesture of good will. If you are the one initiating the termination, a refund shows that you are not walking from a bad deal, but allowing them to fund / find a good one.

How to find a good customer

That’s the job of your Funnel Plan. If you have one, make sure your ideal client profile (in the target section) is super clear about who you do and don’t want to be solving the problem for. If you don’t have one, consider starting with a free Funnel Plan.

If you don’t already have a funnel plan, you can start off with a free one, which will give you the whole end-to-end set of tactics, including our most popular campaigns.

If you’re planning requires more options and power, try our paid Funnel Plan for full access to the app, including the ability to switch campaigns in and out, edit the tactics, etc.

Go to, get yourself a plan, and start planning for all of the lead types and campaigns.


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