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Risk Management Bulletin

Ways Awful Customers Put Your Business at Risk

By November 4, 2016No Comments

1611-rr-2-1Many small businesses operate by the quote, “The customer is always right.” That mantra doesn’t apply to awful customers, though. They put your business at risk in several ways.

Off-Color Jokes or Sexual Harassment

Any kind of off-color jokes or sexual harassment could result in lawsuits by your staff or other customers. You can’t afford to tolerate customers who behave in this manner.

  • Ask the customer to refrain from this behavior.
  • Talk to your lawyer about ending any ongoing contracts with customers who continue this behavior.


Critical customers may consistently point out defects or faults. They may also post negative reviews, belittle, call names or harass. These customers decrease morale quickly, could offend other customers and may cause you to lose business.

  • Contact critical customers to find out the exact problem then offer a solution.
  • Learn from the criticism if it applies and ignore it if it doesn’t.


Rude customers may throw fits because they’re having a bad day or want to get a better price. They actually decrease staff morale, which affects productivity, and they can make other customers uncomfortable and cause you to lose sales.

  • Lower your voice and remain calm.
  • Talk to rude customers in a private area.

Want Free Work

You wouldn’t give customers money from your pocket just for walking in the door. However, giving away your services or products for free essentially allows customers to rob you.

  • Always set a fair rate for your services.
  • Value yourself enough to get paid what you’re worth.
  • If a customer wants extra services beyond the current contract, ask for more money.

Pay Late

Every time a customer pays late, you waste valuable time doing collections when you could be finding new customers or serving current customers who do pay on time.

  • Always ask your customers to pay upfront.
  • If you do extend credit, be sure it’s only partial credit.
  • Don’t deliver the final service until payment is received in full.


Your customers expect you to communicate regularly, and they should also return messages quickly and give you the information you need to do your job.

  • Offer a grace period in case of an emergency or unexpected life event.
  • Reach out via multiple methods, including phone, email and text.
  • Move on if the customer remains unresponsive.

Demand Your Full Attention

Customers who demand your full attention or micromanage their orders leave you little time to cultivate new customers, nurture current customers or diversify your business. When the big customer moves his account elsewhere, you face lay-offs or even bankruptcy.

  • Set boundaries that outline how much time you will give to customers.
  • Remember to work all angles of your business.

Your small business relies on customers for its success, but you do not need to tolerate awful customers who put your business at risk. Handle those customers in a way that protects your business.