DESIGNER TOOLBOX: How To Fire The Wrong Customer

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Hi Guys,

As a winning argument to defend the idea that any business in general especially fashion businesses should target their ideal customers, I would like to share the lessons of my recent experience of firing a customer.

In which case should you fire a customer?

Ever had a grumpy customer who demeans your work, is reluctant to pay although you delivered everything and bullies you? If you answered yes to that question, you must have had that moment where you put your Buddha-like smile while repeating in silence “The customer is king”.

Well, here’s the good news: Seth Godin said you can fire your customer.

In my case, I dealt with someone who claimed he had good taste and yet whose website and photos were really bad. I told him several times the fashion business is all about concept and image but he didn’t listen. I didn’t want FXF to be ever associated with him.

If your customer keeps complaining and tells the wrong story, run! Whatever happens, this is not a work you would be proud to show and it won’t do you any good.

If you delivered what you promised and your customer keeps finding excuses that you didn’t agree upon to not pay, your customer is dishonest with you. I delivered a bonus on top of the things I committed to. He complained, didn’t pay, sent threatening messages full of spelling mistakes (which said a lot about the tastefulness he bragged about) and yet he used a part of my work after the assignment ended.

So what does keeping the wrong customer cost?

  • time you could use to take care of the customers who tell the right story
  • putting effort on a lost cause since it’s bad publicity anyway

Noblesse oblige: stay polite and pay him to go

Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos ensures he has employees who embody Zappos’s values by paying them to quit after an immersion in the company culture.

It inspired me a lot because eventually, the services may not please but my values must scream. It’s important to show how far you go to preserve those. So I chose to stop the relationship and pay back my customer.

And believe it or not: new opportunities with people who align with my vision arose immediately.

Understand your mistakes and improve your business accordingly

Maybe all this was just a coincidence. But what if not? All the damages caused by this client developed a paranoia so that I swore to myself: “Never again”. Moreover you must use all the opportunities to grow. That client must have left some hints on the road. So re-do all your sales process and identify the spots you missed.

Ensure you used the right message. Do you remember how that customer came to you? What in your commercials, in your choice of words, your platforms, could have attracted his profile? Is there a chance more of his kind exist and would trace back to you? YUK! choose other words and media that bring the right customers.

Ensure your customer understands what you do. Read your product and service descriptions. Ensure they give a precise idea of the result. Make HD pictures of your prototype with a white background and give customers the possibility to zoom without the picture becoming blur. Again, the fashion business is overcrowded already, you cannot afford being in it with bad pictures.

Investigate your general sales conditions (if you don’t have those, start implementing them and enforce your delivery time, your payment conditions). Have your customers approve them in writing.

Do a final comparison between what you sold on paper and what you actually delivered. Maybe there’s a gap that you could have filled either by giving a more realistic idea of what your product looks like or by promising less.

Photo: CC 2.0 fervent-adepte-de-la-mode Charlotte_Gainsbourg#32

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Wondering how to target your customers?

Find more tools to help you through your fashion business plan, with the number one FXF guide. “The Fashion Business Plan” by Bako Rambini is available on Amazon.

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