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posted by martyb on Saturday February 15 2020, @07:44AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the the-pecking-order-stops-here dept.

Modern Machine Shop ran an interesting piece recently under the title, "Why Is It Okay to Fire a Customer?" https://www.mmsonline.com/blog/post/why-is-it-okay-to-fire-a-customer. Here are a few clippings for your interest:

We work overtime to meet the demands of our customers and rightly so. Our success depends on our reputation and repeat business. So much so that going the extra mile in communication and delivery has effectively become the new baseline for good customer service for successful businesses.

This is all well and good. I'm proud of our industry's efforts to elevate the standard through innovation and technology, and it's working. Even so, elevated standards mean bigger risks for customers and suppliers alike, making the century-old saying of "the customer is always right" somewhat of an overstatement. What was once sealed with a handshake is now enforced by contracts and documents written to protect all involved parties.

[...] In my 26 years of leading Pioneer Service [CNC machine shop], I've had the unfortunate but necessary task of firing exactly two customers. The common thread between them was a deal-breaking level of disrespect. They directed accusatory and demeaning language to multiple members of my team, and they were unapologetic repeat offenders. Firing them [customers] was considered only after taking every reasonable measure (and perhaps a few less reasonable ones) to make them happy.

Thankfully, this is an extreme minority of customers. I will never enjoy firing anyone, employee or customer, but I have yet to regret standing up for a member of my team.

[...] Just before firing one of the two offending customers, I approached the employee who had been that customer's favorite target. I'll call him Dave. My goal was simply to reassure Dave that he'd done nothing wrong. Dave was shocked, didn't want me to fire the customer and tried to dismiss the rude behavior. My explanation to him was the same phrase I say to all of my employees: "You've got my back; I've got your back.

Anyone work for a boss/owner like this?

 


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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Booga1 on Saturday February 15 2020, @07:47AM (10 children)

    by Booga1 (6333) on Saturday February 15 2020, @07:47AM (#958447)

    At one of my previous phone tech jobs our bosses had our backs. They were mostly non-technical and any escalations to supervisors were pure customer appeasment. If you wanted your problem solved, you needed to be put back on the phone with a tech agent.

    As for "firing" a customer I can think of at least one case of that. The customer had called in for tech support over 75 times in the previous month. Most of the complaints they had were beyond ridiculous and unsolvable since there was no grounding in reality. He was costing more in tech support calls than he brought in every month so it wasn't much of a stretch to let him out of his contract. The "customer is always right" except when they aren't, and they cost you money and reputation. Some customers aren't worth keeping.

    • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15 2020, @12:40PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15 2020, @12:40PM (#958477)

      One of my bosses was dealing with a cuntstomer in San Diego's East County and finally had enough. He told the customer to take interstate 8 west all the way to the end, get out of the car and walk 200 feet to the nearest beach, and pick up a handful of sand and pack it up his ass. Another boss that had to write a reason on an invoice for a refund wrote "Customer is an asshole".

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by The Mighty Buzzard on Saturday February 15 2020, @01:59PM (1 child)

      I occasionally am a boss like that. Unless you've got a very small customer pool, losing a good employee is a lot tougher on the business than losing a bad customer.

      They have to be a good employee though. An average employee that the job is just a job to and who doesn't give a shit if the company does well or not? I generally fire them (Not for cause. They're welcome to draw unemployment.) as soon as I can find someone who looks like they will be a good employee, whether they're a source of friction with a customer or not.

      Good employees can quite literally be worth their weight in gold but average ones are only worth the time it takes to find better.

      --
      My rights don't end where your fear begins.
      • (Score: 2) by Booga1 on Saturday February 15 2020, @02:11PM

        by Booga1 (6333) on Saturday February 15 2020, @02:11PM (#958500)

        Understandable, and a balance can be hard to find in some situations. My position was "tier 3" tech support, end of the line. We were all the best troubleshooters you could get, so it was incredibly rare that an employee was fired.
        When we did fire someone it was almost always because the employee lost their cool and ended up being rude to the customer.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15 2020, @05:05PM (6 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15 2020, @05:05PM (#958544)

      I work for an elite university. With the students paying around $100k/year, the customer is *quite* right. A student complains about their grade or cheating sanction, and management will try to rectify things with the professor. Even having tenure does not seem to be much protection, if a student is anguished by something a professor said and mobilizes half the student body via Facebook, chances are the university won't want the trouble and could remove the professor.

      As for how good the employee has to be to avoid getting fired, an established CS prof bringing in millions of research dollars is probably safer in his position than a history professor. Money talks.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15 2020, @07:04PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15 2020, @07:04PM (#958579)

        Operation Varsity Blues?

      • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15 2020, @09:00PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15 2020, @09:00PM (#958603)

        There is a professor I know who told a student that was high and disrupting the class to leave. The professor had to apologize to the student publicly after the student called daddy and daddy threatened to pull his million dollar yearly donation to the school.

        • (Score: 2) by Booga1 on Sunday February 16 2020, @04:24AM

          by Booga1 (6333) on Sunday February 16 2020, @04:24AM (#958692)

          Where's my "Sad, but informative" mod.

      • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Ethanol-fueled on Sunday February 16 2020, @03:04AM (1 child)

        by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Sunday February 16 2020, @03:04AM (#958670) Homepage

        If a university get a reputation for actually calling out all of their scum Arab and Chink foreign students on their cheating, those fuckers will take their lucrative foreign student tuition money elsewhere. The losers are the Americans who have to carry the weight of those scum in mandatory "groupwork."

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 16 2020, @11:38PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 16 2020, @11:38PM (#958938)

          Someone didn't get laid trying to impress the cute asian!

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by istartedi on Saturday February 15 2020, @08:07AM (5 children)

    by istartedi (123) on Saturday February 15 2020, @08:07AM (#958449) Journal

    Over the years demographers have coined various terms for groups based on generation and/or life status (e.g., empty nesters, sandwich generation, boomers). For that very small slice of the demographic that has to be "fired" as a customer, I think of them as being in their own little group: The Insatiables.

    Unlike all the other groups, businesses would like to avoid attracting them as customers in the first place. Nobody wants to market to them, appeal to them, or cater to them because they will literally cost the business money.

    I saw this first hand way back in my tech support days. All calls were logged, and some people had really long logs. In some cases, management was willing to retain the customer at a loss if they were learning, were polite, and weren't using a ridiculous number of support hours. It was no doubt written off as good-will.

    The hardcore Insatiables that were fired had some combination of high resource use, failure to learn, abusive language towards techs and/or customer service, and perhaps some other factors. As techs, making this decision wasn't our call. AFAIK, some fairly high level manager in Customer Support did it, and it was quite rare just as the summary says.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15 2020, @08:46AM (3 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15 2020, @08:46AM (#958451)

      We call a similar person a "Karen" around here.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15 2020, @12:15PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15 2020, @12:15PM (#958470)

      At work we have a low level QA employee with a heart of gold and a brain of mud. The rest of the team spends more time supporting him than it would take us to accomplish everything he does. But he's friendly and forever polite, so we frankly shield from upper management how unproductive he is.

      ...of course it's all still relative. We've had some junior level executives that are pretty smart make us spend years of work and millions of dollars building products we couldn't get anyone to buy. They're still employed - and probably paid $200k more than our lovable but useless member of the QA team.

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15 2020, @09:35AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15 2020, @09:35AM (#958455)

    Working onsite as an IT contractor, the customer giving us abuse was expected, and my employer threw us under the bus as standard operating procedure. It's part of the onsite contractor business model! In a particularly egregious case of customer abuse, I had to fire my EMPLOYER. Some employers just don't give a shit about high employee turnover.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by bzipitidoo on Saturday February 15 2020, @03:22PM

      by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Saturday February 15 2020, @03:22PM (#958520) Journal

      Oh yeah, I've fired bosses. Often enough, the very term "boss" gets the particular human in that role thinking the wrong way about things. Start lording it, making the relationship more of a master and slave relationship, get very disrespectful and accusatory, and, of course gaslight and lie, and for what? Some persist in believing the sophistry that slaves are more productive, and keep seeking ways to make the employee more dependent, stuff such as pushing employees to take on lots of debt. One of my bosses said to me that 1) he was close to firing me, for not working harder and for being pushy and insubordinate, 2) he noticed I hadn't bought a new car and that was bad because it meant I was more able to walk, and 3) did he need to have all the passwords changed so I couldn't sabotage the company? I was getting things accomplished, and this bozo not only wants more, but wants it in a particular way with me effectively chained to my desk, and then throws out those gratuitous assaults on my ethics when I had done absolutely nothing to justify even the whiff of such suspicions. I know very well how touchy and paranoid people are about the possibility being pwned by the genius hacker dude, and so I say as far away as possible from that sort of thing. I don't install personal backdoors, crack passwords, hack in, or anything else of that sort. I don't want to be even a white hat. Sadly, that's not enough to allay all suspicion. Because you *could* do it, they persist in suspecting that one day, you might. I quit the next day.

      The worst situation I've been in was one in which the customer should have been if not fired, at least reined in. Instead, our management couldn't find the guts to say "no" to anything, and bent over backwards and kept on bending, twisting themselves into pretzels. That's one of the troubles with having just one big customer. Management threw their own integrity and reputation under the bus, claiming to be able to do everything the customer wanted in even less time than the customer's own crazy fantasy schedule allotted, when they knew very well it couldn't be done. Then, they hoped that the customer's people, stupid as they were, were even more stupid than that and would not realize they were being snowed. The customer was unreasonably demanding, yes, but quite justified in being upset at being sold a bill of goods. Next, management blamed the peons and fired the lot in a vain attempt to appease the customer, who nevertheless cancelled the contract. They viewed the underlings with considerable contempt, for not being able to meet the expectations that had been set despite knowing the expectations were pie-in-the-sky. They were further disgusted that the underlings were not more willing or skilled at playing along with the charade they'd been running.

  • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Ethanol-fueled on Saturday February 15 2020, @09:40AM (1 child)

    by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Saturday February 15 2020, @09:40AM (#958457) Homepage

    When you work for a diversity nigger you know he got yo back. But when you don't, a cracka gotta git one. SHeeeit, nigga.

    • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15 2020, @10:47AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15 2020, @10:47AM (#958461)

      Go home, Eth, you're drunk.

  • (Score: 5, Funny) by Bot on Saturday February 15 2020, @10:11AM (3 children)

    by Bot (3902) on Saturday February 15 2020, @10:11AM (#958458) Journal

    These things happen because your system is not as advanced as the one in southern Italy.

    - this is unacceptable, you imbecile
    - b.. but...
    - let me talk to your manager
    - oh ok... DAAAD! somebody for you!

    --
    Account abandoned.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15 2020, @01:00PM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15 2020, @01:00PM (#958482)

      While Pioneer Service is in the USA, author of the fine link wears a headscarf...photo at the link.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by turgid on Saturday February 15 2020, @12:36PM (5 children)

    by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Saturday February 15 2020, @12:36PM (#958474) Journal

    It should go without saying that this sort of toxicity is very unhealthy and unhelpful. I've done many jobs now in my life, starting out putting out vegetables in a supermarket when I was a teenager. The customer wasn't "always right," the customer, "came first." There was a subtle distinction. The attitude was that everything we were doing was for the customer, and that if there was a customer with any sort of problem at all above the trivial, it was to be escalated straight away to first the department manager and then the store manager. It was a very good system. Management tried very hard to cater to the needs of the customers but there were one or two that were just impossible to please and they were politely but firmly, after several attempts, asked to go to another shop.

    There were some pretty draconian rules about staff behaviour and dress code and I did see some people being sacked for some utterly trivial an inconsequential things, however, the cardinal sin was being rude to a customer.

    "Greed is good" and "the customer is always right" have done a lot of damage. They have resulted in an unsustainable arms race between unreasonable demands from customers and therefore unsustainable pressure on businesses and staff. I've had to leave several companies (for better pay and less stress) several times now because management and customers will not communicate like rational human beings (flat out lies), and the staff are treated as some kind of magical entity which will produce years of work with no notice by working late, cancelling holidays and working weekends. The biscuit was finally taken when being asked to start work on a project, which was a good 18 months worth of work, a month after the deadline (employer lying to customer). As a point of pride and as a personal goal, I stayed on and got that project done with eventually 100% customer satisfaction in 18 months. Many others left due to the stress. I did too after getting the result.

    Unreasonable demands, unreasonable schedules, inhumane treatment of people and contempt for objective reality ultimately result in failure. It's unsustainable. You may imagine you're getting "good value for money" and the company may get a short term rise in the share price, but the knowledge leaves the building and you have unsupportable products, and you can't develop the next generation without starting from scratch. The people become tired, ill and bitter. And all for what?

    We're all human beings and we all deserve to be treated with a bit of respect whether customer, supplier, worker, manager etc. Things would work much better if we took a more sophisticated and enlightened approach. But greed is good, eh?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15 2020, @01:36PM (4 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15 2020, @01:36PM (#958492)

      I know out of personal pride you stayed on to finish the project, but all you did was show the customer that your employer was good to do business with. You kept the cycle going. And it's not like you ever planned on going back to work there, so... I guess you used that as a bragging point in your interviews for the next job? Frankly, a year and a half is WAY too long to stay for a bad employer.

      • (Score: 2) by turgid on Saturday February 15 2020, @01:43PM (3 children)

        by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Saturday February 15 2020, @01:43PM (#958496) Journal

        I thought I'd broken the cycle, and I thought some of the management wanted to do things better, but at the end of it the company went back to its bad old ways. Not hiring enough staff, lying to customers about work done etc. Yes, it's good to be able to say you achieved something. People call me a "Socialist" with all its negative connotations so it's good to have some clear achievements in the Capitalist shark tank,. We're not all lazy and profligate with other people's money.

        • (Score: 2, Informative) by The Mighty Buzzard on Saturday February 15 2020, @02:23PM (2 children)

          Right but being lazy and profligate with other people's money is only mud icing on a turd cake. Involuntarily taking money that someone else has earned and giving it, however directly or indirectly, to someone else that you think needs it still ain't right. Need is only need, it does not turn wrong into right; and when the folks who the money actually belongs to don't even agree on your definition of "need", it's especially fucked up.

          --
          My rights don't end where your fear begins.
  • (Score: 2) by SomeGuy on Saturday February 15 2020, @01:32PM

    by SomeGuy (5632) on Saturday February 15 2020, @01:32PM (#958490)

    "We reserve the right to refuse service to ASSHOLES like YOU"

  • (Score: 2, Disagree) by The Mighty Buzzard on Saturday February 15 2020, @01:39PM

    It's okay to tell a customer to fuck off for any reason under the sun that isn't prohibited by law. Whether it's wise is another story entirely.

    --
    My rights don't end where your fear begins.
  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15 2020, @01:40PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15 2020, @01:40PM (#958494)

    If you want to see what firing customers is like read this http://www.actsofgord.com/ [actsofgord.com]

    And the door is to your left if you do not like it :)

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by ledow on Saturday February 15 2020, @04:10PM

    by ledow (5567) on Saturday February 15 2020, @04:10PM (#958528) Homepage

    "When is It OK to "Fire" a Customer?"

    When that customer stands any likelihood of affecting your business.

    Sorry, but you're a customer. I can choose not to deal with you at any point. All you can wave in my face is some theoretical future business, but I should always have enough customers in any viable business that that won't affect me.

    But if you're going to cause good staff to leave, not want to deal with you, embarrass us in front of other customers, cost us money, or just make us dread having to communicate with you... then you can go.

    Business is business - and losing my staff, or other customers, because they have to deal with you isn't good business. You getting personal isn't good business. And business is a two-way transaction. I have to want to do business with you on the same terms as you want to do business with me.

    If you have a genuine grievance, then we can talk. If you're just going to be automatically personal and nasty, then I have no truck with you at all. Bye.

    And, yes, I have told clients (during contracted work) where to go.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15 2020, @04:59PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15 2020, @04:59PM (#958543)

    In college I worked for a car rental lot, was just me and the owner. I fired several customers when I was there with his backing. If someone shows up and acts like a jerk they will act that way the whole rental.

    Had some guy sign up for a rental for a 09 dodge caliber. Nothing special but he gets to pay 35/day instead of the 150/day he would pay anyone else for a new Camry. Guy shows up, raises a shit about it, and demands I swap him. We only had the vehicle that he knew he was getting so he demanded that I give him my personal vehicle, a '12 Camry. So I told him I would drive him to hertz or avis but that we would not rent to him. Guy was pissed naturally but at that point is not worth the rental. He would call and bitch about it every day, as most unhappy customers do, and I don't want to deal with it.

    Don't be a jerk.

    • (Score: 2) by toddestan on Saturday February 15 2020, @10:56PM

      by toddestan (4982) on Saturday February 15 2020, @10:56PM (#958619)

      Seems like there's always a group of customers like this - they buy the cheapest thing to get their foot in the door then start demanding freebies, upgrades, special treatment - also things like not buy the service contract but demanding all the perks from it anyway. The sad thing is that management would give into their demands, and it seemed a fair number of these people, seeing their tactics had some success, wouldn't be happy with what they got and would just keep demanding more and more. A lot of these people ate up a significant amount of customer's service time too, always complaining about things that they got that they didn't even pay for.

      Management never seemed to want to fire these customers either. It seemed like the obvious choice given that these customers often were just purchasing the bare minimum so it's not like they were losing out on a lot of sales. They were a bit too much into the whole "the customer is always right" thing.

  • (Score: 4, Funny) by mcgrew on Saturday February 15 2020, @09:57PM

    by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Saturday February 15 2020, @09:57PM (#958611) Homepage Journal

    Do NOT serve Bill Shakespeare. He's been bard.

    --
    Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
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