Learning To Say No To A Few Customers Might Save Your Startup


By Hari Julka

Every business has customers who will like to lynch you to the last penny. Or even rich customers whom you don’t like doing business with, just because they are abusive, use offensive language but are regular customers. 

These could be customers your staff does not like dealing with. Or those who are too complaining, nitpick small mistakes of your staff, or even try to disparage you and your business. 

Sometimes these customers could be paying even top dollar for your services or product, even while being offensive in their communication, causing a team rift amongst your own employees.

So, should your business chose such customers, especially at a time when new customers are hard to come by.

There can be two strategies of dealing with such customers:

Strategy 1: Keep the customer on a watch list, terminate services, and move on: Instruct the staff, to refuse to serve the customers, or break the agreement, citing irreconcilable differences over behaviour.

But first give a warning to the customer via your staff to mend his or her ways, and not be offensive or abusive in the communication, or demeanour. If the behaviour is repeated, there should be a strict policy to terminate contracts with such customers.

After all, dignity and self respect of staff and your business is more important than earning top dollar. Once your brand loses respect, it loses all its value it offers with your services or product.

Be very strict on such rules, and code them into a policy. Make staff and employees learn this policy by heart and report any such behaviour by a customer / customers directly to the manager.

The customer should ideally be kept on a watch list with a warning till he or she mends their behaviour.

If possible, inform the company or other staff about sending someone else to interact, because of issues, that erupt in dealing with a particular procurement manager.

In such cases, the company at the other end can also take remedial action against their unruly staff who many be damaging the brand of their company in the market.

If the customer owns the company, and fails to correct himself / herself, terminating the contract might be the only way out to let your team not split apart.

Strategy 2: Develop a customer probation policy and learn when to say ‘No’: When such customers communicate with your business, put your most experienced staff to deal with them. They can give them back in their own language, or better refuse services on their face politely, unless they correct their behaviour.

Experienced employees  might have dealt with many such unruly customers in their career, and would have developed tips and tricks to deal with such customers.

They can teach the same, to new staff who can thus change the dynamics of the behaviour with unruly customers.

Such tips may include politely guiding the customer to keep tone down, not use offensive language or just keep silent by not serving them till they sorry.

The customer might chose to take the business away from you. But the idea of building a startup for most entrepreneurs is to walk away from toxic managers or work culture and if you let that culture walk right into your startup through toxic customers, you might be falling into the trap of becoming an unhappy employee, even while owning your own business.

The art of saying ‘No’ should be learned by entrepreneurs, even of costs them money. At leats it will afford them peace, and with a peaceful and happy team environment its just a matter of time, your business will attract happy customers.

Learn to choose your customers and walk away from the ones, you are unhappy with.

The best way to develop this into a policy is to have a temporary 3 month trial period for each customer, after which you may say yes to bind it into an agreement or not.

Cease the agreement if you think signing on a customer will impact your other customers and your work environment

Take on too many unruly customers and your business will have an unsustainable future. They will only damage your startup’s brand and cause attrition in your staff.

Choose your customers wisely, should be the mantra for every startup. This will help your develop a sustainable and a business with a happy work culture.

About Author

Hari Julka is a digital marketer and blogger based in New Zealand. He loves to blog on topics such as technology, entrepreneurship, social media, and managing teams in the digital world. In the past time, he loves to practice his nature photography skills.