Every customer is not a customer.
This is a lesson I learned very early on in my company’s history. As one of the people who founded the company, I had to wear a lot of hats back then. Namely, I was answering customer support requests pretty often. After all, if you’re the founder and you don’t talk to your own customers, what are you doing?
Being a little more raw and naive, I firmly believed a company should do everything it possibly can to make a customer happy. And as an extension, even non-customers too. I still do believe that’s a noble goal, but there is also reality that needs contending with.
A situation happened about 6 months into the company’s existence. Growth was still pretty slow. Being a new company, getting the word out was pretty tough. We managed, however there was always a close eye on finances and renewals. We needed customers, we needed to keep customers and we had to do everything we could to make that happen.
Then comes along customer Tim. Not their real name, but for the sake of this post, their name was Tim.
Tim was a customer that came on board a few months earlier. Not a bad customer, but someone who asked the same questions over and over. Tim never tried to understand anything, Tim just wanted things to be done for them. As a newer company, and as a service provider, we did it. Every single request. 24 hours a day, every day.
Then the requests moved into the realm of web development; site building, computer administration, and on and on it went. We still did everything that was asked, even if out of scope. One night, I remember spending 6 hours working on Tim’s request to optimize their site for mobile, which wasn’t in the scope of our services.
And Tim continued paying their bill. If I had to include our own costs in these requests, we’d definitely be losing money on Tim. But these were the early days, who cares…keep the customer!
And finally came the day where we took a little too long to get to Tim’s newest request, asking about Pinterest integration into WordPress. Not something we knew how to do, and we gave Tim some options, including hiring a developer from a freelancer website, some guides and advice. And right away, Tim unloaded on the team, about how we’ve never been helpful, and we clearly didn’t need their business, or their referrals and that we didn’t value them.
It’s at this exact moment it dawned on me: Tim was never a customer. Tim was just someone who wanted everything they could possibly extract before moving onto another company to do the same thing. Tim would never change. Tim felt entitled to everything no matter what. Could we have possibly set better expectations? Absolutely. Lesson learned.
I fired Tim the next day. There was the shock, the denial, the anger. Tim felt rejected, almost like a bad breakup, and in some sense, it was. Then came the threats of posting everything online. All over social media sites, to which I replied to Tim “You’re totally free to do whatever you’d like, your account will be cancelled in 30 days.”
From that moment forward, I realized not every customer is worth keeping, or getting. Your business, your team and you as a human being deserve better than the Tim’s of this world. Let them have their fits elsewhere, your business and the human beings in it will be better off for it.