Dear Mrs. Crabapple, We will miss you. Love, Herb.

When a small group of marketing professionals decided to name this company LoveClients, it’s clear they were making a promise of fanatical support and service.

With that said, no matter how hard we try, how hard we work, or how good our intentions may be in delivering our promised service offering, we still manage to upset at least a handful of clients each year. Given our scale, and the number of clients we service, that is a very small %, though wouldn’t it be great to get that number to Zero?

Sometimes it’s a misunderstanding, often it is human error or bad expectation management, and oftentimes it’s ego or finances weighing in on the kerfuffle. The point is, regardless of how hard a company tries to keep every client as satisfied as possible, there are always going to be problems that arise from both sides of the fence.

Why do disagreements occur between customers and businesses?

We don’t think there is any one reason, other than that there are human beings involved in the collaboration. We all have our own ideas, opinions and expectations of one another in a working relationship, and even though we have spent literally hundreds of thousands of dollars building a custom collaboration system (TheHub) to manage the accountability and work flow process of the campaigns we run, no piece of software will ever have an answer for a client, employee or contributor who is having a bad day.

We’re human, we all experience those days.

But, isn’t the customer always right?

This old adage is heralded by any well trained customer service rep that did their training in the last 30 years, and for good reason: without customers, there IS no business. What’s key however, is to remember that the customer is right only so as long as they are still a customer. At some point, a customer can change roles. Should a shoplifter in a supermarket still be treated as a customer?

As a business owner, you’re in business to be in business. And when in business you do not have to accept every customer. In fact, you can and should draw the line at customers lying to take advantage, stealing, or being abusive. As a business owner it is in your interests to know which type of customers you should service, and which you should simply not cater to.

That may sound harsh, and go against anything you have read about customer service – though isn’t it far more advantageous to spend your time servicing the right type of customers, and having the time to service them well, than trying to be everything to everyone?

We love our clients, and we love the campaigns we work on for them, but unfortunately when most businesses think that “the more customers the better”, they’re usually wrong. Some customers are quite simply bad for business.

Surely, every relationship can be salvaged

In a perfect world, every customer relationship could and should be salvaged in the light of confrontation or disagreement; but only up until the point that the value of the relationship outweighs the risk.

There is a reason why a credit card company freezes credit, or a Telephone company cuts the line if bills go unpaid. They are weighing up risk. It is in their respective interest to keep their paying customers, if the customer is meeting their side of the arrangement. The moment the risk gets to be too great, is the exact moment the relationship becomes unsalvageable.

Know when to say No.

A story I overheard in a hotel-lobby bar from a Southwest pilot passing through, has stuck with me to this day. He spoke of a female passenger who traveled frequently with his airline. The woman was apparently in a constant state of disappointment with every aspect of Southwest’s service. So much so that within the company they began to name her the “Southwest Pen Pal”, as after every flight she took, she would spend the time to send the airline a written complaint.

The complaints varied from problems with in flight meals, to the flight attendants’ uniforms, the check in counters and seat allocation. Each time she wrote, as company procedure required, someone within the organization had to investigate each matter & take the time to reply.

Her final letter, littered with a shopping list of complaints, was finally pushed up the tree and landed on the CEO’s desk (Herb Kelleher), requesting that he reply personally.

Swiftly he wrote back and said, ‘Dear Mrs. Crabapple, We will miss you. Love, Herb.’”

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