Tips on how to spot a potentially bad customer, shared by 10 Experts

“ The customer is always right ” is the slogan most used by salespeople and customers in retail stores, and it is also the phrase that has most permeated the psyche of owners of all types of businesses. The problem is that this belief is not correct, at least not 100%. The truth is that there are bad customers. The customer can often be wrong, make unrealistic orders, be abusive, and want to take undue advantage in a situation.

Thinking otherwise tends to have negative consequences for you, your company, your employees and your customers. But when is a customer bad for your business?

Justin Herring, YEAH! Local

1) Contact Frequency Is High

If a customer contacts you significantly more frequently than the norm, using far too much of your team’s time, they may not be worth maintaining.

Of course, this does not imply that anybody who contacts you with a request is a bad customer. However, if a customer repeatedly contacts you with issues that could have been solved by just browsing your website or knowledge base, or if a customer is clearly too lazy to think for himself, he deserves to be labeled a “bad customer.”

2) Payment Problems

A troublesome customer is one that refuses to pay, tries to postpone payment with ridiculous justifications, or refuses to communicate.

However, such customers should not be confused with ones who have a legitimate cause for postponing payment. They normally come to you to discuss the situation and provide suggestions on how to resolve the issue.

3) Unavailable All the Time

There may be an issue if you can’t reach a customer and he doesn’t reply to your communications on a regular basis. Naturally, the customer may be unwell, busy, or on vacation. However, if the problem persists, you don’t want your employees to be in this predicament.

4) Changes the Scope of Work

In service-based sectors, this is a prevalent issue. A consumer continues to make changes to a project or alters their mind about what they want. It requires you to restart from the beginning, costs you money, and takes time away from other clients and projects.

Read: Customer Retention Strategies You Need to Adopt

Matthew Schmidt, Diabetes Life Solutions

In my experience, one major warning as to a consumer becoming a bad client is if they don’t listen or read our electronic messages. This means that I’m having to re-answer questions 3-4 times, that we’ve already gone over and discussed in great detail. I’m not sure why this is, but when I get a client who asks about a policy or product when I just ’emailed’ them the answers to their questions, it becomes a nightmare to deal with. It’s extremely frustrating to have to engage a person who refuses to listen or read your forms of communication.

As a business owner, we all know that time is our most valuable asset. If you’re constantly dealing with a person who refuses to listen, there’s a great chance that they can become a nightmare. Like most of us have done, it might be worth it in the long run to consider ‘firing’ a client who’s going to be difficult and not be a good fit for your business model.

Amanda Thomas, Konstruct Digital

Bad customers can be extremely disruptive to your organization. In businesses like mine, I’ve had circumstances where a single bad customer that accounted for <1% of our revenue ended up consuming a disproportionate amount of our resources.

After 10+ years of consulting, here are the red flags I have learned:

(1) Asking you to change your process before they’ve chosen to do business with you: be wary of requests asking you to change your process early on without good reason. This can often indicate a client that’s going to micromanage your way out of producing the quality your business is known for.

(2) Aggressive Negotiators: this won’t just stop at the sales process. Everything may become a negotiation.

(3) Lack of values alignment: when the business values of your customer and that of your business/staff don’t align, this can make the engagement ripe for disagreement without a clear resolution model.

Read: Creative Marketing Ideas to Attract Customers

Lukas Pangonis, Vizlib

For a B2B SaaS company like ours, the most common reason we end up with a bad customer is if they either were never qualified in the first place, or don’t get embedded into the product deep enough to get enough value from it to be a satisfied customer.

For the unqualified customers, they often just don’t have a compelling enough use case to justify having a separate paid tool. In a sales-assisted model, spotting this is the responsibility of salespeople, but that’s not always possible with a self-serve model. This is where it can be advantageous to have a free tier for users with more limited needs. Who knows? They may grow and become great customers later on.

For other users, they have a compelling use case, but don’t get deep enough into the product to see the value they were looking for. This is where clear onboarding walk-throughs and microcopy, as well as clear, detailed and easily accessible support documentation are key. In some cases, like ours, where a product is heavily reliant on integrations (our software, Vizlib, is a data visualization add-on for Qlik Analytics), you may even need to provide the setup documentation for a partner’s product as well. It’s well worth it to produce more happy customers!

Nestor Vazquez, SEO en México

Any customer service representative worth their salt will be able to identify a bad customer. While it may seem easy enough, identifying a bad customer can be an immense challenge for many businesses. However, with the right tools and techniques, it is possible to become an expert at spotting a problem client from across the room.

Payment Issues

Once you accept credit cards as payment options at your store or service center, make sure that employees are trained on how to process them correctly. For example, if a customer pays by cashier check instead of as a credit card transaction during checkout, ensure that an employee lets him know about this before he leaves the store. Inform customers of their right to dispute charges in writing within 60 days of receiving their statement (or receipt). If they don’t receive their statement in time to do so, they should contact their bank immediately and request verification.

Read: What Is Customer Retention – A Complete Guide

Diana Loh, Avante Yoga Orchard

When you’re working in the service industry, it’s important to be able to spot a potentially bad customer before they walk in the door. This way, you can be prepared for whatever might happen and hopefully avoid any conflicts.

The easiest way to spot a potentially bad customer is having payment issues. Clients who avoid any communication are often troublemakers. Though it may seem like they have a genuine reason for not paying, usually their excuse is just so that you don’t want to hear what’s wrong or how much interest will be charged if the bill isn’t resolved soon enough- these people come in looking for an easy way out instead of taking responsibility themselves!

Ray Lim, i-Credit, moneylender singapore

When running a business, it’s important to know how to spot a potentially bad customer. Someone who may not be worth your time and effort. Knowing how to identify these people can help you save yourself some trouble in the long run.

The main thing we look out for is having huge expectations without any metrics to justify them. Marketing can be a challenging field to work in, especially when you have big expectations. If the client is not aligned with your team’s goals or strategies it could create problems from day one of working together because there would never seem like enough time for both sides on how best to accomplish their shared objectives; this has been called “the impossible situation.” To avoid these issues we make sure high level decision makers — such as CEOs—are involved early so they’re aware and trusting throughout our efforts.

Read: How To Attract and Keep Customers Using Digital Marketing

Patrick Garde, ExaWeb Corporation

In our experience, you can spot a potentially bad customer when they don’t believe what you believe and when you need to convince them to do business with you.

An old Zen Buddhist saying goes, “How you do anything is how you do everything.”. If a potential customer will force you to convince them every time you give a suggestion or recommendation, then why did they hire you in the first place?

A potential good customer will trust you and probably share the same values as you. It will keep you to a high standard because you have to make sure not to break the trust given by your client.

Practically, it’s hard to turn down business. On the other hand, our best and most loyal clients are fun to work with, especially since they trust us.

Kartik Ahuja, GrowthScribe

When you onboard a bad client, they consistently demand extra work and stress.

So it’s extremely important to identify the red flags before taking up any such projects.

Here are the top 2 things that I evaluate before taking up a project:

#1 — Understanding how much they will follow your processes

The first thing you should do is understand your client’s needs, budget, and timeline.

Based on these factors, evaluate whether they will fit into your agency or not.

Do not work with clients who have a different goal or timeline in mind, or demand more than what is feasible.

You should also not work with clients who don’t respect your working hours, who are always available for questions and need constant attention.

#2 — Evaluating if their expectations are achievable

All clients have certain expectations before coming to you and you need to make sure that they are not unrealistic.

If the request involves a project like Facebook ads or SEO strategies, then it’s important for them to understand that it might take a few months to get results.

The most important thing is to let the client know upfront about this. If they still don’t get it, it’s better to skip on those leads.

Read: Customer service: how to do it efficiently

Shaurya Jain, Attention Always

I’ve been in this industry for a long time now and have worked with some great clients and some not-so-great ones.

I can honestly say that the best clients are those who have a vision and are willing to work with you to get there.

They are usually the ones who are willing to put in the time and effort to make it happen.

So it’s extremely important to avoid clients who do not see the project as a collaboration and are not willing to put in their time.

Clients who aren’t willing to put in their share of the work can be a huge headache, so if you see that factor lacking in any client, back off immediately.


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