How to professionally fire a client.
Posted on October 16, 2014
I got asked this question the other day “how do you professionally fire a client”?
I replied by saying that clients can come in many forms. Some are considerate, some are professional– others unfortunately can be very difficult. When a client is a burden on your companies resources and because of this behaviour, your other clients are really starting to suffer, you will need to talk to them about them being difficult and if they continue to behave in such a way you may have no choice but to cut the cord.
There would be a range of reasons as to why you would need to cut the cord on a client, they are issues like poor communication, non-payment of fees and treating your staff poorly. Most of these can be sorted out with a professional conversation however, there will be the rare times they actually can’t.
What does your binding contract stipulate?
Before firing your client, make sure you understand what exactly each parties obligations are. It would be ideal that you have lived up to your end of the bargain. If not, find out what you currently owe your client. At the same time take some time to figure out what they owe you. It will be important to be armed with the facts so you ensure no loose ends.
Offer advice on who could replace you.
If you are separating with your client due to personal issues or if you feel another company would be able to put up with the client better than your company can, it is respectful to provide a recommendation of another company that can maybe assist them. This shows that you are professional and still care about their needs and the future of the project or business. If you are firing your client due to non-payment or really bad behaviour don’t recommend another supplier because it’s not fair to create a similar problem for another company.
Do it in person.
I may be tempting to fire your client in an email or over the phone however the best and most professional way to do so is in person. Simply set up a meeting with your client, state the purpose of the meeting is to discuss the issues or areas of concern. If they are an emotional person sometime it might be best to hold the meeting in a neutral location like a café, as people usually won’t make a scene in public setting.
Take the contract, any other evidence of money that is owed to you and all evidence that you have lived up to your obligations. Prepare a timeline of events or issues to demonstrate to them that they have not been professional. Be professional, remain calm, be honest, respectful and tell the client exactly what the reasons are. It is professional to give your client an opportunity to explain their side, even if you have already made up your mind. After you have listened to their side, and if you still want out, thank them and talk about next steps as required by the terms and conditions of the contract between yourself and your client.
Don’t want this to happen to you? Have a discovery process!
Firing a client is never an easy or wanted process but it is important to have a solid discovery process of weeding out potentially problematic clients in the initial consultation before taking them on in the first place. By having a solid discovery process you will very rarely have to go through this unpleasant process. Also discuss key areas of your terms and conditions so they fully understand the terms of trade when working with your business.