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How to sack a client

From time to time – though thankfully, only rarely – one ends up with the client from hell…

It’s inevitable – a fundamental law of the universe – like the rise and fall of the tides and the fact that whatever direction you approach a phone box, the door is always on the other side.

We are glad to have the client at first because of the income he/she brings, but it soon becomes clear that they are more trouble than they’re worth – literally.

They’re the sort of client who can’t be bothered to turn up for review meetings that you’ve driven 100 miles to attend…is never available to progress work you’re waiting to complete… who won‘t sign off on work until they’ve made at least 400 amends to the point where your original work is unrecognisable and useless… who doesn’t respond to urgent emails or messages left with secretaries… who wants it done yesterday… who believes they know more about your speciality than you do… who begrudges every invoice and then makes you wait 90 days for payment… etc

For example, I was recently pleased to acquire a large city restaurant as a client and prepared a stream of publicity and PR events.

But I soon got fed up of arriving for meetings he couldn’t be bothered to attend and sitting by myself in an empty restaurant. This happened once too often for me to make excuses for him. So reluctantly, I decided to “sack” my client – I emailed to say that we felt unable to provide the kind of service he was looking for and thank you for all the free lunches.

But I waited until after he’d paid his last invoice!

*Does anyone else have words of wisdom on what to do with the “impossible” client?

you're fired

Comments (8)

Philip says:
January 17, 2016 at 7:35 am Reply

Ahmad Fawaz Bshennaty, Management Consultant, Sultanate of Oman:
True dear Philip…. There are customers with same attitude. Yet we need to handle provided that it is worth it at the end of the day.

alastair lewis says:
January 8, 2016 at 12:28 pm Reply

We have al had clients like this. The way to avoid some of the issues is to make sure you have a watertight contract up front, so endless to/fro with petty invoice queries doesnt pervade. However being stood up at meetings is an occupational hazard, and the only way i could suggest dealing with is it to be direct and simply decline to attend further meetings unless assurances are given that it wont happen again.
Quite often when you speak to others in the industry, you will find others have had similar experiences, this is just an akward client…. remember what goes round comes around, he/she will probably run out of options in terms of providers in the future.
As a final resort, get your MD (if that isnt you) to speak to their MD, and have a chat about the issues you are being confronted with; it may work?

Philip says:
January 8, 2016 at 9:50 am Reply

David Beck, Communication Skills Consultant, Whitby, North Yorks:
The basis of any relationship is being prepared to listen to and understand the other person’s perspective. There may be a variety of reasons why your client failed to turn up to appointments. You seem to have assumed the cause (which may, of course be true – but equally may not) without discussion, and as a result have lost a client. Shame, but not unusual in our testosterone-driven business culture!

Philip says:
January 8, 2016 at 9:51 am Reply

In my own defence, David, I did raise my concerns with the client a couple of times before we parted company. In fact, I gave him the chance to sack me if he felt the relationship wasn’t working…

Philip says:
January 8, 2016 at 11:54 am Reply

David Beck, Communication Skills Consultant, Whitby, North Yorks:
Haha. Fair enough then, no problem with that! Wasn’t clear from your article. Blue skies. D

Philip says:
January 8, 2016 at 8:07 am Reply

Good advice, as always, John – thank you

Philip says:
January 8, 2016 at 8:07 am Reply

John Lloyd-Hughes, Transparent Website Development, York:
Take a deep breath. Look at their historical and potential spend versus the time it takes to manage the account. If the £ return outweighs the input bite your lip. If the £ return is smaller than your input professionally decline to continue the relationship. Easy

Philip says:
January 6, 2016 at 11:25 am Reply

Carmen Dye, Business Loans, Melbourne, Australia:
Good share Philip.

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