Divorcing Difficult Customers 101

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Your relationship with a customer can be like a marriage in a lot of ways, including ending in divorce. 3C Contact Services, the leading provider of outsourced call center solutions, acknowledges that our partners have good working relationships with their clients, but sometimes it becomes apparent that things aren’t working out and it’s time to end things.

Losing a client can be a huge blow to your confidence, but at the same time, it may be for the best. At the same time, we don’t recommend letting the situation escalate to the point where the client ends up “divorcing” you; in the case of difficult clients, we recommend ending it on your terms and not theirs.

Though you may feel like you have to hold on to a client for profits or out of a sense of commitment, there are times where you have to realize that your relationship just isn’t working out and it’s time to end the relationship, such as when:

  1. The client isn’t nice: If your client is a jerk, keeping them on just isn’t worth it. Dealing with a difficult client day in and day out will affect everything from your mental well-being to your relationship with your other clients and employees, especially if your employees have to deal with this individual as well. And don’t worry about receiving a bad referral; chances are if they were a difficult client, they wouldn’t have given one anyway.
  2. The client takes up all your time: If you spend most of your time dealing with a single client’s needs while neglecting others, it may be a sign that it’s time to drop them, especially if it’s costing you time, money, and resources.
  3. The client doesn’t do their part: If your client consistently doesn’t meet deadlines, this can put a drain on your resources and force you to rush through projects and put in long hours. Appeal to their need to stick to a schedule as fellow business owners but if your message isn’t getting through, tell them you can no longer accept their business.
  4. The client doesn’t pay on time: If the client misses a payment by a day or two, you can let it slide, but if they miss payments by more a week, it’s time to drop them and find clients who will make their payments on time.
  5. You’re spread too thin: If you have more clients than your resources can handle, it’s time to start looking into dropping a few. Look at the list above for guidelines on which clients to drop.
  6. You’ve lost interest in the client: We aren’t suggesting that you should drop a client just because you’re “going through the motions” with them, but at the same time, if you no longer believe in what they’re selling or you’ve lost your passion, either find a way to renew the spark or suggest that they may be better served by a new organization.
  7. The client’s needs are beyond your resources: Whether you can’t deliver the level of expertise the client needs or the project is beyond your manpower, and despite wanting to consider working with a partner, you ultimately have to decide if it will be worth your time or easier to just tell the client another partner might be better equipped to handle their needs.

The last two examples are the most difficult, but in the end, you have a commitment to your clients to keep them happy and it’s better to part on good terms. That’s why 3C Contact Services advises that you explain why you’re dropping them as a client and make an effort to assist them in finding a new partner.


Allen, S., “7 Signs It’s Time to Drop a Client,” About.com, April 21, 2008; http://entrepreneurs.about.com/b/2008/04/21/7-signs-its-time-to-drop-a-client.htm.