Recently eReleases let a few customers go. Fired them. It was sad to do but in the best interests of the company, staff, and resources. One customer, lets call him Willy, has always been “high maintenance”. Willy would ask for advice and send in press release ideas and drafts for us to review.
(If you are not aware of this perk, our editors will review your press release at no charge — although turnaround time is dependent on workloads. No rewrites or exhaustive reviews, just an honest appraisal of your press release and perhaps a quick suggestion or two.)
Back to Willy. He is never happy. Yet Willy continues to use us … most of the time. Andrew, one of my new employees, recently disclosed that he had spent more than seven hours reviewing and making suggestions to several drafts from this customer.
I was not happy.
Willy had not even placed an order. In fact, he had done the same thing several months before and then used another press release distribution service. During a one hour period, Willy called the office more than ten times. That’s when I instituted a new rule: customers get one free review and employees are not to spend more than 15 minutes on it. If you don’t treat my employees with respect, you get nothing but a warm recommendation to find another press release service.
This particular customer said he was placing an order to go out the next day and would be sending yet another complete draft of his press release so disregard the many previous drafts. Andrew works until 7pm Eastern Time. At 6:45pm, I told Andrew that if Willy places the order this late to simply use the final version and let the client know he will not be getting an editorial review due to the late submission (and abuse).
Andrew didn’t listen.
Willy sent his press release minutes before 7pm and Andrew spent over an hour fixing the press release and getting changes approved by the client. I warned Andrew that all this extra work will not be appreciated in the end.
Willy is toxic. He will still find something wrong and blame us.
Guess what? I was right.
Willy omitted a link to a photo he intended to use and then pointed the finger at us because some of his previous drafts included such a link, despite the fact that his final draft and the heavily edited proof Andrew sent to the client for approval didn’t have the link.
Willy made countless phone calls requesting we send a corrected press release at no charge. He was not friendly and the abuse persisted. Next time Willy sends us a press release to review, he will find no one willing to work on it here. He will be politely told that we don’t feel we can serve his needs and that he should find another press release distribution service.
When you find yourself locked into a bad relationship, even when it is a vendor / customer relationship, it’s best to part ways in a polite but firm manner. Andrew had a hard time accepting this, having thought that the customer is always right and that we must do whatever we can to make the customer happy. Also, when a single customer takes advantage of your most valuable resource — time — you should evaluate how your business operates and consider rules to reign in potential abusers.
Another customer, lets call him Carl, had signed up for our affiliate program and was writing to complain that he had not been compensated for two orders placed over the past few months. He said that our affiliate manager was “extorting money,” adding: “We are not unsatisfied with eReleases, quite the contrary, that is why we wanted to send our business your way … If we do not have some resolution we will sadly have to choose another provider.”
The problem here is that our affiliate program only pays out for referring a new customer to eReleases. Carl was only “referring” himself.
The two orders Carl complained about were from Carl.
I react to words. The use of “extorting” and the threat of finding another provider got me a little angry. I waited until I cooled off and simply explained:
“Our affiliate program pays out on new customers only [which is pretty explicit]. Your previous two orders were for your companies. As a result, the payouts were not approved. It is an affiliate program and not a discount program. We appreciate your business but understand if you must go elsewhere in the future.”
I feel that focusing on customers who appreciate our time and treat us respectfully will ultimately make us a better company. By removing the customers who require the most labor for the smallest payout, eReleases will become more efficient and a better place to work.
Times are tight. It’s important that you work smarter as well as harder to retain business. It seems completely antithetical to common sense to fire customers in this economic climate. I would posit just the opposite: now is the time to get as efficient and customer-centric as possible. Anything you can do to optimize your business while allowing you to better serve the bulk of your customer base is a good thing — even if it comes at the expense of a minority of your most difficult and least profitable customers.
This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.