If only firing someone were as easy as Donald Trump makes it look on his TV show The Apprentice. Unfortunately for most of us, the act of firing someone — be it an underperforming employee or a pain-in-the-butt customer — can be a stressful situation. On the one hand, you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, while on the other you know you need to cut loose the dead weight ASAP. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to make the process as pain-free as possible for both parties involved. Just keeps these steps in mind the next time you have to utter the “F” word.
1. Consider your options.
Unless you’re your company’s sole-proprietor and are responsible for all areas of your business, from customer service to marketing, it might be wise to think about passing off a cranky customer to another member of your team. It’s possible that a change in chemistry is all that’s necessary to fix an unpleasant situation.
2. Wait for the ideal time.
Before you give your customer the old heave-ho, make sure you do it at a time that doesn’t appear obvious, such as during a contract renewal or annual budget review. This gives you the opportunity to tell a white lie and say that your firm no longer has enough money in its budget to do future business. They’ll never be the wiser, and you’ll have a solid excuse. Hey, money doesn’t grow on trees—am I right? Plus, this is probably the easiest way to sever ties without anyone’s feelings getting hurt.
3. Offer up a referral.
Even though it might feel good to leave a cranky customer high and dry, consider the diplomatic option of offering them up some leads before you take the high road. Just because they weren’t a good fit for your company doesn’t mean that they don’t need a replacement for the services you provided. Furthermore, if other companies return the favor, you could very well see yourself with potential clients down the line.
Check out this video for tips on how to deal with difficult clients: