It’s a human condition. We hate to lose. In economics it is a well-accepted fact that our need for loss aversion make us take irrational or non optimum decisions.
Organizations are no different. No company likes to lose a customer. There are some that consciously decide to focus on growth, even if it comes at the expense of higher than average customer attrition. But in these times, where supply is overabundant and demand is weak, the loss of a customer can sting. Once you tally up the cost of acquiring a customer and compare it against their lifetime value, the monetary impact can be substantial.
And yet, we have all had cases where it was clear a short time into the engagement that your solution or product wasn’t going to fit the customer’s needs. You could take the approach of keeping your customer happy by expending as many resources as needed. But there are times when it’s best to let your customer walk away.
This may seem like contrarian advice. After all, most articles you read exhort the value of customer success at all costs. So what is the rationale for “firing your customer”, beyond the fact that this is a series on unconventional thinking?
Simply put, it’s in the best interest of the customer. If your company prides itself in doing right by your customers, then accept that your offering isn’t a good fit. It may have been an overzealous sales rep that promised non-existent features or unreal expectations from the customer. Whatever the reason, you should be honest with your customer on what your product can and cannot do. It may be an uncomfortable conversation, but in the long run it is best that the customer not spend time on your product. Instead they can focus their efforts on solutions that actually fit their needs.
Trying to cater to a customer’s demands that are not aligned with your roadmap can also confuse your product. Most companies aren’t lacking in ideas or features to work on –– the challenge is prioritizing those ideas and selecting the right ones. You don’t want your product roadmap dictated by the need to satisfy one customer, if those changes are at odds with your plans.
Finally, resources are finite. By spending excessive time on one customer, you run the risk of neglecting other ten customers. Customer-centric organizations don’t have it in their DNA to ignore a customer’s concerns. But objective prioritization may serve your team well.
Now, the reasons above shouldn’t be interpreted as a reason for firing every demanding customer. The challenge is to understand which customers aren’t a good fit and which customers are painful to service, but will ultimately make your product better.
There isn’t an easy formula. If the customer fundamentally likes your offering, but expects more and is pushing you for features that will benefit others over time, than hold on to that customer at all costs. They are the ones that make you build a better product.
We can make a difference to our customers by thinking through what matters to them, by putting ourselves in their shoes, and by focusing on how we can help create a better experience for them.