Small business is faced with many challenges, but one of the most daunting is what to do with those customers that are costing you money.

In many instances, breaking up with the customer is the only viable option.

Recently a friend of mine broke it off with a number of her ‘business’ customers. Their expectations of her small floral business were unrealistic. It was scary to cut ties with her regular weekly orders, but the move paid off. She was able to invest the extra time in creating a more focused online marketing and social media plan. Now her high Google search ranking brings daily ‘one-off’ customers to her online door. Her customers are happy and she has rebuilt confidence in her business and herself.

Another friend had a client that would complain about everything from the price of a renovation to the tiles he had chosen, but didn’t like, once they were laid. Most recently, this client wanted to match custom-built closets (built in 1990) to new closets, for another room, at a very cheap price. My friend was clear “the only way to match custom-built closets was to custom-build them again, but even then, they wouldn’t be identical”. Instead, the client decided to pick a set of standard closets, that he believed most closely matched his custom-built closets. The quote was signed and my friend installed the closets. Two days later, he was uninstalling the closets and building a set of custom closets that more closely matched – at no extra charge to the client. The client was still unhappy because they were not identical…

Every customer’s expectations are different and as a small business it is imperative that you understand what expectations you are able to meet. You are not going to please every one, but you can limit the number of unhappy customers by ensuring you position your business appropriately. Do not over-promise and under-deliver. Do not use the words ‘satisfaction guaranteed’, unless you can guarantee satisfaction to every customer.

The key is authenticity. Be open, honest and upfront about what you can achieve and what you can’t, and if you find yourself repeatedly disappointing the same customer, perhaps it’s time to break-up.

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