When It’s Time for a Customer To Go: Ending the Relationship on a Positive Note

Hiring marketing or content marketing talent?Most people who have worked in any customer-facing role, whether as a waiter, retail clerk, or business relationship manager, have had to deal with difficult customers. And, when you’re working for someone else, you typically just have to grin and bear it. However, for freelancers and small business owners, you have some flexibility. You have the ability to make decisions about whether or not to keep a client or customer.

That’s not always as easy said as done, of course.

While a customer-facing employee of someone else’s company might relish the opportunity to “fire” a customer or client, the calculus is quite different when that difficult person is paying your bills. But is there a breaking point?

In an article for Entrepreneur titled, “Time to Say Goodbye? When & How to Break Up With a Client,” Melissa Dawn discusses this very topic. Dawn recommends first taking an objective look at the relationship: “Is this a truly negative person, or is there something you need to change? Is there something you can do better? Are you bringing your very best self to this relationship?” As a next step, and last attempt to save the relationship, consider whether there’s a way to communicate to the client why you feel their behavior is counterproductive to your relationship and why you are considering parting ways.

If, after doing all this, you still feel like the relationship needs to be severed, Dawn offers a few best practices for the breakup phase:

Keep It Professional

There are probably some bad feelings between you and the client on a personal level. After all, the situation has gotten so bad that you don’t want their business anymore. Nevertheless, you need to maintain a professional stance that is brand supporting. All interactions with your customers – including terminating these relationships – should be handled professionally.

End on a Positive Note

To the extent possible, end on a positive note. Thank them for their business and wish them well. You never know when they might want to return—and you might want to let them.

Give a Referral

If you can, refer the client to someone else in the industry. This goes along with ending on a positive note. You want to let them know you don’t want to disrupt their business by letting them go. Even former clients that you have “fired” can spread positive word-of-mouth and make referrals.

Document Everything

It’s important to keep written records of ending a business relationship in case disputes arise later. Are there unpaid invoices? Are there materials to be returned? Are you acting on provisions in a contract that allow for severing the agreement?

Clients and customers pay our bills as freelancers and small business owners. But sometimes the cost of dealing with difficult customers can outweigh the benefits, particularly considering the limited amount of time available to small organizations with limited staff. Sometimes it’s best to simply let the relationship go; it can benefit both of you!


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Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We are adept at evaluating and analyzing communication efforts and working with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content, through both on- and offline media to achieve desired results. Our background in business journalism, marketing, PR/media relations and online communications makes us well-positioned to serve the needs of 21st-century marketers.

We serve clients who are looking for help creating content for a wide array of channels—from social media posts to full-length manuscripts, and everything in between. We focus primarily on service-related B2B topics and work with a number of independent consultants interested in building their thought leadership through online channels. For ongoing content management, our first step is to fully understand your goals, objectives and competitive landscape.

Then we’ll conduct a thorough analysis and assessment of your digital presence, compared to competitors, and recommend a communication strategy to achieve your goals. But, we also regularly take on individual projects – white papers, blog posts, contributed articles, etc. If you’re interested in learning more, let us know!

(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

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