- July
Posted By : Badri
How to handle the wrong customers?

Early this morning I was returning from Chennai Central station after seeing off my son.  I booked a shared ride and when I called the driver, he asked me to cross over as he was waiting near GH.  It was a 3 minute walk for me and I didn’t think twice.

When I boarded the cab, there were 2 other people already and one more was to join.  And then that person called and the driver told him that he is waiting on the other side of the road.  That passenger insisted that the cab come to where he was standing despite the driver telling him that it will be a long detour to come there and that 3 passengers were waiting already.

Despite repeated requests, he refused to cross the road and it was already getting late for us.  He was also quite abusive.  Faced with pressure from us and left with no alternative, the driver cancelled that ride and we went ahead.

Although I believe that the customer is right and important, this is a situation where it needs to be treated as an exception.

Let us remember that the person who booked the share ride did so because he did not want to spend more money on a regular cab and hence cannot demand that he be served as a sole passenger.

Many of you may be familiar with this situation but you may be wondering why I am sharing this in this blog.

Sometimes you may be faced with a customer situation in your own business who is extremely demanding in a manner that is more than commensurate.  

He may be asking for features or facilities that may put your product road map at a risk and more importantly alienate your other customers.  And this might happen at a time when you really need customers. What should you do?

As a software product entrepreneur, I have received many requests for features that are specific to that prospect which make no sense for the larger customer base.

And where a feature request is a pre-condition to an order, I have communicated with the prospect that he wants me to treat him as a project customer at the cost of a product (very similar to this passenger who booked a share ride but expects the privileges of a solo ride) and that it doesn’t work.  But when they continued to insist, I have politely refused to go along.

It is in your own interest and the interest of your business that you should turn down that business opportunity, like the driver who cancelled the ride.  

In such cases where the prospect or the customer may not be right for your business, you need to have the clarity to say ‘No’ even if it means a pain in the short-term.  But if you are desperate to say ‘yes’, you are putting your entire business at peril.

As part of the ExSell consulting service, we help Founders, especially those who are not from the sales background, become comfortable in managing unreasonable customer expectations such as the above, with a host of mock sessions.  We help you get ready to make decisions that may appear to be customer-unfriendly but which are actually aligned to your business objectives.

Contact us today to engage with us and take your business ahead on the growth path

(Image courtesy: linkedin.com)



  • Slippery slope of Customer delight!!!!!!!!!!

    In my MBA marketing class , my very wise professor told the class , ” While customer delight is great, oftentimes we stretch it to a level where it de lights us.” I neither understood that profound truth of that statement then nor could I fathom the cost one has to pay for trying to please a customer beyond a level. The objective of running a business is to make profit and it should be from every customer irrespective of his size , position or strength.

    When I was consulting one of a large software firm on their insurance , the COO will often arrogantly comment that , the insurers should price their risk lower than the expected loss level , year on year because it is the cost of having the company as their customer. Just because his company is big he assumed that he had the right to demand a service higher than its value and expects the other customers to subsidize him. This is not only illogical but downright cruel to the right customers.

    Thank God that the driver had the sense to walk away. If he had chosen to heed the demand of the customer to pick him up that would have be insulting to you three who , for common good , agreed to go to him.

    For the entrepreneurs it is not difficult to draw a line as to where and when to stop ceding to unreasonable demand. But it is mostly the executives who believe that the they should walk the extra mile, thereby compromising the interests of the company to which they owe their jobs and try and convince the entrepreneurs that the life time value from the customer will pay many times over. Sadly a customer once spoilt remain rotten throughout the relationship.The sensitization should be across the organisation , especially with the customer touch point teams.

    Thanks for making me reminisce a few such moments and remind me that one cannot delight the customer, always , profitably.

    • Raveendran,

      Thanks for sharing so many insights. Am really happy that my brief ride share encounter had triggered these.

      1. That reference to ‘de light’ is indeed very apt and profound. Appears your professor was well-grounded in life.

      2. Its true that some customers expect to be treated like Royalty even if they don’t deserve that treatment. As a nation, we are yet to relate to our employers, customers and vendors as professionals and our inability to say ‘no’ to unreasonable demands or even requests often lands us in serious trouble.

      3. That driver would have still tried to accommodate that stray passenger but the 3 of us in the cab put our foot down. Perhaps he was scared that we may cancel the rides and so he reluctantly cancelled. But this is not the first time I have seen ride-share passengers behave in such a petty fashion.

      4. By spending excessive time or resources for one undeserving customer, startups send a very wrong message to the right customers and create serious problems. You are bang on target that delighting the customers has to be done in a profitable manner.

      Thanks once again



  • Good one. The larger lesson is to focus on who exactly IS your customer and customer behaviour. If done, you can find out quickly who is NOT your customer – and weed them out as quickly as possible. This would avoid embarrassment on both sides.

    • Govind,

      Thanks. Its a reality in life that despite all our attempts to profile our customers carefully, an odd one will still creep in and we may have to remove it before it spoils the entire show. If we are clear about what we want to do with our business, it is easy to spot these party-spoilers. Else, we may end up thinking that they are valuable and before we blink, we would have already sunk a bit.

      Thanks once again


  • This is part of the overall Game of Business and one should know how to live with such customers and cope with them rather than theorising on it much !

    Thus Spake the New Age Sage !

  • Very true story that applies to situations where some customers behave abusive. It takes guts for the respective Relationship Manager and his supervisor to tell the customer their stand of closing the relationship or change his way of dealing. It gives employees confidence to handle such situations and not to yield to tantrums.

  • Hi Badri,
    Very true what you had mentioned.
    It happens frequently in all our Startups.
    Very nice blog.

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