How to Know When it’s Time to Part Ways With a Customer or Client

Is it possible that the customer isn't always right? Despite your best efforts, there may be times when it's best to part ways with a customer or client. Make it as painless as possible with these tips.

 

As a small business, you rely on your customers or clients to survive. They are the lifeline of your business. You appreciate the projects and the business they give you, the money you earn from doing business with them, and even the friendship you may have developed. 

But sometimes they can become more of a problem than an asset. They may become a nightmare to work with—perhaps they have stopped paying on time or are causing problems with your staff. Maybe they have unrealistic demands or keep adding on to the project but are unwilling to pay more. Maybe they are unresponsive or unsupportive of your work. 

That’s when it may be time to consider firing them.

But, can you really fire a client or customer? The short answer is yes, you can. However, it is crucial to first make sure you have exhausted all other solutions and explored any potential remedies to the problem. It is always best to work things out when possible. 

A working relationship is kind of like a marriage. You have invested time, energy, and money into this relationship. It’s important to take the necessary time and effort to ensure ending the relationship is the right thing to do—and that is it what you want to do.

To begin this process, start by taking full stock of the situation and clearly identifying the problems. Are you losing money on them? Are you losing staff because of them? Why and how?

Also try to look at the situation objectively and make sure your ego or your need to make money is not getting in your way. 

Then, take some time to talk to the customer or client and listen to what they have to say. Clearly assess the situation to determine if you can work out the challenges and problems. Then make your decision with a clear head and a clear conscious.

However, it may be that a customer or client has behaved inappropriately with you or your staff. These types of situations are definitely more cut-and-dry—and you shouldn’t hesitate to fire them immediately. This includes sexual or any other form of harassment. 

RELATED: Read more by Tim Dimoff 

If you decide that the time has come to fire a customer or client, here are some tips to ensure the smoothest process possible:

Be honest and clear about the problems or the situation 
Never blame them or intentionally offend them. Blame the particular circumstances if necessary—this can include personal circumstances or a change in business direction
Finish any outstanding projects or services to the best of your ability
Create a final task list for both you and the client
Suggest a replacement if you can
End the working relationships in person or by phone or letter—not in email

Firing a client or customer is never easy or preferred. It’s almost always a tough choice to make. However, if it needs to be done, doing it quickly and the right way will help ease the situation for both of you.

Timothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at info@sacsconsulting.com.

 
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  • Next up: How to Recognize and Handle Cyberbullying in the Workplace
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  • How to Recognize and Handle Cyberbullying in the Workplace

    Cyberbullying should never be tolerated, but it may be hard to recognize—especially in the workplace. Learn how to identify the signs and understand how to handle it once it is detected.

     

    It’s important to recognize the signs that an employee may be experiencing cyberbullying, which should never be tolerated in the workplace. Signs of cyberbullying are often subtle. Managers and company owners need to know how to recognize these signs, how to handle the situation and how to utilize methods of prevention.

    Let’s start with the definition of cyberbullying. Essentially, cyberbullying is a method of bullying or trying to inflict psychological harm to someone, through the internet or other means of cybercommunication. While we tend to think of it as something that usually happens to children or teenagers, it actually can happen to anyone of any age. It is a means of threatening someone using social media or on-line technology. It is also used as a way to demean someone. Cyberbullying can be motivated by many things including revenge, boredom, or a lack of empathy. Additionally, because it’s usually anonymous, it’s often motivated by a person who is feeling invincible. In a work situation, it is often used to deal with jealousy, for sabotage or revenge. 

    RELATED: Understanding and Building a Positive Work Culture

    Cyberbullying generally involves threats or mean comments that are clearly meant to hurt someone. Making fun of someone on-line in a cruel and hurtful way is a classic form of cyberbullying. People who cyberbully feel powerful and confident because they are doing it anonymously. 

    The main forms of cyberbullying are:
    Harassing someone 
    Impersonating someone
    Photo harassment
    Creating websites, blogs or other means of hurting someone thru social media channels

    Cyberbullying is most likely a situation that occurs when a person is being threatened, humiliated, embarrassed, tormented and hurt by another person using text messaging, e-mails, or any other type of digital technologies. Cyberbullies often post humiliating information.

    Some signs that an employee is being cyberbullied include:
    Exhibiting frustration, anger, or anxiety
    Having insomnia
    Exhibiting performance or productivity issues
    Being emotionally upset during or after using the Internet or the phone
    Being very secretive or protective of one's digital life
    Withdrawal from other employees
    Avoiding workplace gatherings
    Eating lunch or taking breaks alone

    The biggest difference between cyberbullying and face-to-face bullying is that the internet is available 24/7 and it can be invasive and inescapable. In a business situation, employees are protected by federal law if subjected to a hostile working environment, so it is incumbent upon you to make sure that they feel safe at work and this includes feeling safe on-line as well.

    You need to be aware of the frequency and severity of the unwelcome conduct, whether the conduct was physically threatening or humiliating, if it is interfering with work performance, if it is having a negative effect on the employee's psychological well-being, and whether the alleged harasser is their manager or superior within your company.

    RELATED: Read more by Tim Dimoff

    What you can do to help prevent cyberbullying is to offer employees and management intensive training about all forms of bullying, including cyberbullying. They need to know it is unacceptable in your company and will not be tolerated. Make sure that you clearly state the penalties for this behavior. It is no different than training employees about sexual harassment or any other unacceptable behavior. You also need to create a culture that allows a victim to feel comfortable coming forward to report cyberbullying, just as you would for any other form of bullying. And make it known that cyberbullying will not be tolerated in your workplace. It is an important and very positive message for you to send. 

    President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Speaker, Trainer, Corporate Security ExpertTimothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at info@sacsconsulting.com.

     
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  • Next up: Implementing Automation and Lean into Your Business—No Matter the Size
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  • Implementing Automation and Lean into Your Business—No Matter the Size

     

    Time is money, especially when it comes to business. If you could maximize employee time, reduce business costs and save your customers time, would you jump at the opportunity?

    Most likely, the answer is going to be yes. 

    If that’s the case, then automation and lean processes should be something to consider for your business. But what exactly is automation and lean?

    “Automation reduces human error and lean eliminates waste. They both eliminate hours of labor and go hand in hand,” said Kathy Dockery, SVP, Chief Information Officer at First Mutual Holding Co., First Federal Lakewood’s holding company. “It’s not if you should lean the process, it’s a matter of when.”

    At First Federal Lakewood and all our affiliate banks, implementing automation and lean are a top priority across many departments. Introducing efficient IT solutions, consolidating employee processes and cutting out excess steps are just a few ways that the banks are working towards productivity within the business.

    From startups to large corporations, Dockery believes every size business can benefit from the efficiencies gained from these initiatives—including employees and customers.

    However, Dockery warns that it’s not a one and done initiative. An internal cultural mindset needs to happen in order for automation and lean to be successful. 

    “Employees have to be behind both ideas, and it has to be cultivated within the organization first,” she said. “Awareness must be raised so the company can let go of repetitive processes and improve efficiency.”

    Where to begin?

    There are a few things to consider if you plan on implementing automation and lean into your business.

    You want to start by creating a committee with the leaders from each Line of Business. This internal group must exist so they can create rules, provide guidance, and ensure everything is being maintained as the environment changes.

    “You must have strong leaders backing and supporting this initiative,” Dockery said. “Once that’s in place, there needs to be training, communication via company-wide townhall meetings and meetings with employees to walk them through the ideas. This way, everyone understands the culture you’re trying to cultivate.”

    Once a committee is in place and has created ideas for their department, a decision can be made on where automation and lean should occur within the organization.

    “Look at the company as a whole,” Dockery said. “The departments with the most processes and most employees will be the first to benefit from automation and lean. Look at the financials in those areas and start digging into it from there.”

    Beyond the initial step of creating a team, Dockery recommends tracking KPI’s around each process that you’re going to automate and lean.

    “I recommend having quick wins,” she said. “Take those wins and use them as examples when you’re in the beginning stages of implementing the processes. This may help you boost the overall confidence amongst the groups.”  

    Emerging trend in the world of automation and lean 

    As for the future, Dockery sees one emerging trend on the horizon for automation and lean. 

    In the automation sphere, hyperautomation is the latest buzzword. Hyperautomation is an approach that an organization uses to rapidly identify, vet and automate processes and covers everything from IT to business processes. 

    “Hyperautomation utilizes multiple technologies and platforms ranging from RPA, AI to machine learning,” Dockery said. “However, it isn’t about the technologies, it is about a new approach to business and IT processes.”

    No matter how big or small your business is, everyone can benefit from implementing automation and lean. While it may seem overwhelming to begin, the end result can leave you with large rewards.

     
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  • Next up: Is it Time to Bring Back Your Workforce?
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  • Is it Time to Bring Back Your Workforce?

    Are you considering bringing your team back into the office? What will a post-COVID workplace look like? Take these guidelines into considerations as you plan your return.

     

    It’s been over a year since the pandemic began and many businesses have experienced shutdowns or have had employees work remotely. As things begin to ease up and more people are being vaccinated, what does that mean for small business? How will your business look and operate going forward? Will you bring employees back or will you continue to have them work remotely? Will your business model look different in the future? What is your new normal?

    While workplaces may look different as we move forward, there are some basics plans and strategies that may help you decide when and how to work in the future, and if you want to attempt to bring back in-person employees, and to determine your timeline.

    Employers and employees may have mixed feelings on coming back to full capacity but it most likely will be a slow process. Many may want to continue the remote work arrangements. According to a Gallup poll, nearly two-thirds of employees who have been working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic wish to remain remote, while only 35% say they wish to return to the office.

    RELATED: COVID-19 Design Play Book

    The health and safety of the workforce should be your top priority and it must include a moral, ethical and legal concern for all employees and customers. New protocols may include deep cleaning and sanitization, rethinking the layout of the workspace, establishing guidelines for the use of personal protective equipment, and establishing rules governing when employees can return to work after recovering from infection should all be considered and evaluated.

    There are important considerations that you should be thinking about when making a decision to move forward. The most important aspect, and one that is going to be very helpful to you, is to develop a plan that takes the following into consideration:

    • Put people first and include considerations for risk and what controls you need to keep people safe and healthy while also keeping your business continuity and productivity.
    • Determine who actually needs to return to in-person work and who can continue to work remotely.
    • Focus on customers, workforce, and other factors in order to keep everyone safe.
    • Communicate changes and policies to everyone. Make sure all employees and customers know the rules and procedures going forward.
    • Have a plan to mitigate workplace illness. This may include contract tracing, following state and local guidelines, setting expectations, considering legal and operational risks for employees, vendors and customers.
    • Learn to operate under new conditions that may include rethinking how people work, your real estate footprint, new training, new tools, and more.
    • Plan work schedules with people in mind and make an effort to understand your employees’ needs.
    • Reevaluate your performance measures.

    RELATED: Read more by Tim Dimoff.

    Think strategically but be smart when determining what works best for your employees, your customers, and your business.

     

    President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Speaker, Trainer, Corporate Security ExpertTimothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at info@sacsconsulting.com.

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  • Next up: BBB Business Tips: Is Your Website Secure?
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  • BBB Business Tips: Is Your Website Secure?

    The risk of doing business online has never been greater due to the number of scams and data leaks. This Cybersecurity Awareness Month, learn why an unsecure website is bad for business.

     

    October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, which makes this a great time to reevaluate the cybersecurity measures in place at your business. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Report, the cost of cybercrimes in the U.S. reached $2.7 billion in 2020 alone, so it’s no wonder why small businesses are worried about protecting their business. A recent Small Business Association (SBA) survey indicated that a majority of small business owners were concerned about cyberattacks against their business, with a whopping 88% of business owners saying they were concerned that their business was vulnerable to an attack.

    All of this shows us that the risks of doing business online have never been greater for both businesses and their customers. Online purchase scams and frequent data leaks put consumers' financial security and privacy at risk, and reduce consumers' trust in your business. Show consumers your business is trustworthy by having a secure website. A valid Transport Layer Security (TLS) (formerly Security Socket Layer, or SSL) certificate is the easiest way to do that, and it’s one of the components Better Business Bureau® consistently recommends consumers look for.

    Here are 5 reasons why an unsecured website is bad for your business: 

    1. Internet browsers identify your website as a security threat.
    A valid Transport Layer Security (TLS) certificate tells internet browsers your company website meets standard security protocols. Without it, potential customers won't see your company’s homepage. Instead, they are greeted with a warning message advising they could be susceptible to a phishing attempt. Customers don’t want to risk losing money or having their identity stolen just to use a company's website.  

    2. Customers fall victim to scammers.
    An expired TLS certificate puts your customers at risk for fraud and identity theft. The certificate does more than keep your website free of warning messages; it also helps ward off hackers and impostors. They do this by verifying the identity of your website and encrypting sensitive information.

    When a TLS certificate expires, user data is at risk of exposure, and you’re more vulnerable to scammers who may use your business identity to steal from customers. Shoppers who access and use impostor websites could have their identity stolen, their financial information compromised, and even lose money to scammers. If an impostor uses your business's identity, customers will associate that negative experience with your company.

    3. Your business reputation suffers.
    If the first thing a customer sees when visiting your website is a warning, they will immediately identify your business as untrustworthy. Even if you quickly take action to correct the lapse in security, trust with that customer is likely lost for good. A study by Ponemon Institute estimates that one-third of visitors refuse to ever revisit any website where security has lapsed. 

    4. Trust is lost with established clientele.
    Customers are quick to trust businesses they’ve patronized in the past, and scammers know it. An existing customer who falls victim to identity theft through your business is likely to take their business (and their referrals) elsewhere, jeopardizing the 25% sales boost that customer loyalty provides to your business.

    5. Shoppers do business with competitors instead.
    Ultimately, the result of allowing your TLS certificate to lapse even momentarily could be significant damage to your reputation, sales, and customer loyalty. Every customer you lose due to an expired certificate is one customer your competition could gain. To set your business up for long-term success, you need to take data security seriously and stay ahead of any potential risks.

    In our digital world, customers must trust you with their personal information before they’ll decide to buy from you. Be a leader in customer privacy by only collecting information you need, safeguarding your data from thieves, and being transparent about what you do with customer data.

    Setting out to create a culture of cybersecurity is a time-consuming process, but it is important. Having a secure website can help to convert website visitors into paying customers.

    Start protecting your business and customers by making sure your business’ website is secure with resources for your business from the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and leading technology companies e.g. Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, that can help get you started. 

    For additional tips and resources, visit BBB.org to help keep your small business thriving. Contact your Better Business Bureau by calling 216.241.7678 or emailing info@cleveland.bbb.org. Interested in BBB Accreditation? Find out how you can apply for BBB Accreditation


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  • Next up: Keeping PACE with the Market
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  • Keeping PACE with the Market

    In a recent webinar, we explored how Ohio-based commercial and industrial real estate project developers, energy service companies and contractors are financing energy efficiency and renewable energy projects using innovative Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy Financing (C-PACE).

    PACE financing provides fixed-rate, long-term financing to cover up to 100% of project costs. Typical projects require no out-of-pocket expense and generate immediate cash flow for building owners - enabling deeper, more capital-intensive retrofit investments. We showcased the standards, tools and underwriting best practices proven to meet stakeholder underwriting demands and win projects.

    Now more than ever, you may be seeking solutions to mitigate airborne pathogens such as COVID-19. If you are upgrading HVAC equipment and include specific measures like UV-C with documented energy savings, PACE financing may be a great tool.

    PACE refinancing or “Retroactive PACE” allows eligible improvements that have already been installed to be refinanced with PACE. 

    Watch the webinar below:

     

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