Contrary to popular belief, the customer is NOT always right. Before you dismiss this advice, hear me out.
While most clients are wonderful, decent people, you may encounter people who simply make running your business much more difficult.
Maybe you’re a stylist or esthetician and have a client who’s always late to their appointments. Perhaps a customer is rude or abusive to your team and guests. Sometimes, a person simply isn’t a good fit for your business.
Whatever the case, if a client relationship isn’t working out, you may want to consider firing them.
It’s a tricky task for sure, which is why we’ve put together a guide on how to fire a client nicely.
Why should you fire a client?
Firing a client may seem counterintuitive. After all, why would you purposely turn away someone who’s paying you money?
But there are several valid reasons for letting clients go, and the move can actually improve your business.
If you’re wondering why or when to fire a client, consider the following situations.
They don’t respect your time
Constantly being late or failing to show up for appointments could be grounds for firing a client. When someone constantly cancels at the last minute or doesn’t bother showing up at all, they’re essentially booking a slot that could’ve gone to a paying customer.
While you can offset the financial impact of no-shows and cancellations by having strict policies and charging penalties, these behaviors may also cause stress and other issues. A no-show could wreak havoc on your plans for the day or put you in a bad mood, which could affect the experience of others.
The bottom line? A client who doesn’t respect your time can negatively affect your business in more ways than one. So, if you have any repeat offenders, it’s in your best interest to let them go.
No one — not even a paying client — has the right to disrespect you or your team. If someone is being abusive or is constantly making you or your staff feel bad, that’s a major sign that they should be fired.
You have creative differences
Creative differences are common among beauty and grooming professionals like barbershops and salon owners. Maybe the client isn’t a fan of the products you’re using. Perhaps their definition of “short” hair is different from yours. If you and the client aren’t seeing eye to eye when it comes to your services and results, they may be better off with another service provider.
You’re losing money because of them
Clients always returning products or constantly requesting redo services and add-ons could be costing you profits. If this is the case, it’s time to send them elsewhere.
They’re not your target audience
Sometimes, a client simply isn’t the right fit for your business. Perhaps you’re a salon owner and you want to start focusing on kids. Or maybe you run a spa and don’t offer services that can treat a particular skin condition. If you simply cannot serve the client in the best possible way, encourage them to find another provider.
What to know before firing a client
Already identified the client(s) that you need to fire? Here are the steps you should take before pulling the trigger.
Identify the pros and cons
Evaluate what firing a client would do to your business. Weigh the pros and cons of letting clients go, and use that information to guide your decisions.
Here are some advantages and disadvantages your business might experience when firing a client.
Pro: Less stress
You’ll free yourself from having to deal with customers who are causing you stress. When you’re not weighed down by dread or tension, you’ll feel better and level up your performance.
Pro: More room for better clients and opportunities
When you don’t have a problem with clients taking up space in your calendar and location, you’ll have more space for better customers — ones who are a perfect fit for your business. Plus, you could use that extra time to strategize and come up with ways to improve the client experience and grow your business.
From this perspective, you can think of getting rid of clients who no longer serve you, so you can make room for something (or someone) better.
Pro: Higher profits
Your business might take a small financial hit in the short term, but if you have clients who are unprofitable, then the decision to fire them will ultimately lead to a higher bottom line.
Con: Short-term revenue loss
This is probably the main issue that trips up service providers when firing clients. Sending clients on their way will mean less revenue, at least upfront. But if you play your cards right, you’ll end up in a much better financial position. (More on this in a bit.)
Con: Negative reviews
Depending on how you end things with the customer, the move could prod them to write a less-than-stellar review of your business online. But again there are ways in which you can handle negative reviews.
How to Fire Clients: The Steps to Take
So, you’ve decided to move forward with firing your client(s). You’ve weighed the pros and cons, and you have plans for how to deal with the aftermath.
It’s time to touch base with the client (physically, over the phone, or digitally) and let them know that you’re parting ways. It’s a tricky task, and each conversation will be different, depending on the situation.
To help you get through it, keep the following pointers in mind.
Figure out the “when” and “where”
When to fire a client and where to do it will depend on the customer and the reason you’re letting them go.
These things are best done in person. Like most difficult conversations, you want to be face-to-face with the other party so you can fully explain your position and prevent miscommunication.
Let’s say you and a client are having creative differences and you decide to fire them. It may be a good idea to have that conversation in person, on their final appointment. Right after administering the service, you could take them aside and let them know that it will be their last visit.
That being said, in-person interactions aren’t always possible, particularly if you’re firing a client because of repeated no-shows. If this is the case, then you can give them a call or send them a note via email or text, depending on the communication method they use the most.
All in all, if you’re wondering where and when to fire a client, you need to consider the reason you’re parting ways and determine the communication channel that works best for the situation.
Do it in private
If you’re firing clients in person, do it somewhere private. Before their appointment, prepare a room or section in your location where you can speak with the client privately (or semi-privately if you don’t have a separate office or room). For example, you can do it at a station at the back of your salon and then make sure there aren’t any other guests around.
Show your appreciation
Tell them how much you appreciate their business. This softens the blow and increases the chances that you’ll have an amicable interaction — which could prevent any negative words or emotions from coming up.
Use neutral language
If you’re letting a client go because of creative differences or a lack of alignment with your business, make sure the client knows that it’s not their fault — or anyone else’s for that matter. Don’t get defensive and state things as they are.
Say something along the lines of “It’s not a good fit”. It’s a neutral statement that doesn’t put the blame on anyone.
Frame the breakup in a way that benefits them
A good way to end things amicably is to show the client that the breakup is in their best interests. Once you’ve let them know that you’re not a good fit, tell them that they will be much happier with a service provider (e.g., stylist, therapist, etc.) who is better suited for their specific needs, preferences, or personality.
For example, if you offer facials and come across a client that has a skin condition you can’t fix, educate and encourage them to find another provider who can offer the help they need.
See if you can refer them to another service provider
If possible, refer the client to another service provider who can truly help them. Note that this applies to decent clients who aren’t a great fit for your business. If you’re dealing with a difficult customer who doesn’t respect you or your time, then you wouldn’t want to send problem clients toward your fellow entrepreneurs.
Have your records handy (if necessary)
This is a step you need to take if you’re firing a client because of excessive tardiness, no-shows, or product returns. It’s important to provide documentation when dealing with the client, as this keeps everyone on the same page.
You could, for example, show the client that they have a pattern of canceling at the last minute, which violates your policies.
How to fire a client nicely: letter and script ideas
It’s hard to find the words to fire a client, so we’re providing sample letters and scripts that you can use. Note that these scripts won’t apply to all situations, so read them carefully and make them your own.
When dealing with creative differences
Hi [NAME], thank you so much for coming in today and I appreciate your business. I’ve noticed that we’ve had different opinions when it comes to [INSERT ISSUES HERE]. I don’t like arguing with clients and I don’t feel like I can serve you in the best possible way. I believe you would be much happier with another provider so I suggest trying [INSERT SUGGESTIONS HERE]. They might be a much better fit for your needs.
When they’re no longer in your target market
Hi [NAME] — It’s been a pleasure working with you and I truly appreciate your business. However, I’ve decided to shift my focus and cater more to [INSERT TARGET MARKET]. I’m reshaping my client base and services menu, and I will no longer be able to meet your needs. I’m more than happy to recommend other service providers who are a much better fit for you.
When they don’t respect your time
Hi [NAME] — First off, thank you for being a client and we do appreciate your business. However, we noticed that you canceled your last 5 appointments with less than 24 hours' notice. Cancellations and no-shows put a strain on our operations and our business policies state that clients have a no-show/cancellation limit of 5. For this reason, we are no longer able to serve you.
Firing a client isn’t pretty, but it’s sometimes necessary
There’s no easy answer to the question of how to fire a client nicely. Each interaction will vary, depending on your relationship with them, as well as factors like your policies and business strategy. It’s essential that you weigh the pros and cons of firing a client and try to mitigate any risks to your brand and bottom line.
And when you’re ready to have that conversation, keep your cool and strive to end things amicably.