Not all customers are created equal: How to provide differentiated service in your subscription business

When you’re building a business, it’s easy to be too hungry for customers. Yes, you need that revenue to survive and to grow, and there may be a time where you have to tolerate some less-than-perfect customer interactions in order to keep some business. However, not all customers are created equal. Not all of them are worth fighting for. In fact, the time and energy that you spend on fighting for one particularly ornery customer could be much better spent winning others who aren’t as tricky.

There are good customers and there are bad customers and learning which is which can save you a lot of headaches when running your business. Here, we’re going to look at some defining traits you should keep an eye out for.

Good customers pay on time (most of the time)

Now, everyone might have the occasional payment issue. There are plenty of genuine reasons for delaying a payment and if they come forward with an explanation that’s legitimate or it’s one-time or two-time thing, it’s not worth making a judgement over. However, bad customers will refuse to pay, justify postponing the payment, and avoid contact all-together.

Good customers don’t demand all your attention

If a customer needs support, that’s one thing. However, if they’re constantly getting in touch for help with a new issue every day, especially if the information they need is clearly available on the site or FAQ, it can become a problem.

Bad customers are always moving the goalposts

Perhaps the most frustrating kind of customer of all is the one who agrees to a service or product and is happy with the standards you set together. However, when they get what they ordered, they suddenly want something different and want you to rearrange or re-do the whole project or service to fit a brief you were never given in the first place. This is a customer that’s not worth keeping around.

Bad customers brag about swapping vendors

We’ve all been customers or clients and we have all been frustrated with legitimately bad service. There’s nothing wrong with airing those frustrations publicly. However, a customer that take the opportunity to gloat about a business “losing my money” because of a minor price difference, a minor detail, or other perfectly natural differences between businesses is a huge red flag. Not only are they likely to have unreasonable standards, some of them are always looking for a better deal, and will inevitably cause some PR drama when they find one they like better for whatever arbitrary reason they give.

Good customers don’t try to score freebies

Changing the brief of a project on you, or the terms of service you agreed to, is just one example of this. Bad customers are almost always trying to angle it so that they get more for their money. It’s natural that businesses reward good, loyal customers, but it shouldn’t be something that’s actively expected. Similarly, when you are running a deal or have any guarantees or return policies, you should beware the customers who will try to game them. The textbook example is a customer who tries to return a product the day before the return policy runs out. If they do that once, there’s some plausible deniability. If they try it a second time and a third time, then it’s time to cut them off.

Bad customers make your staff frustrated

It’s simple. If your customer support staff are complaining about them, it’s likely there’s a good reason. They are always going to be the first people to feel the impact of a bad customer. Of course, the customer might be having a bad day and is a little harder to deal with as a result. However, you should take note of the interaction. If other red flags start popping up, then they will work as a confirmation for what your staff suspected. Listen to them, and count their opinion as a “first strike.”

Bad customers want you to always be available but are never available

Does your team come back to the office only to find ten voicemails from one customer, and an email explaining how aghast they are to be left hanging? Yet, when you try to call them back, it takes about a week to get back in touch with them. This is a customer who clearly believes that their time is much more valuable than yours and anyone in your team’s. It’s important to not waste the customer’s time and making your business’s customer support more accessible can be greatly helpful. However, that doesn’t mean you should be available 24/7 if it’s not feasible, nor is it reasonable to expect that you would be.

Good customers are never abusive

If a customer pays late once, if they’re in a bad mood with your support staff, or if they use a return policy a little liberally, that much can be forgiven the first time. However, one thing you should never be quick to forgive is abusiveness. Insulting your staff, calling them names, shouting at them, or demeaning them in any way should not be tolerated. Don’t be afraid to call these customers out on their behavior and to show them the door. To choose them over your staff, even once, will do irreparable damage to the company culture. It’s just not worth it.

What to do with a bad customer

Where possible, you want to replace them with good customers as soon as possible. Stop acquiescing to unreasonable demands and start enforcing the terms of your service. You don’t owe them constant obedience to their standards because they’re a customer. Good customers deserve good service, and your bad customers can get in the way of them receiving it.

Good subscription management software can help you retain data and profiles for each customers. As such, it can become a lot easier to start learning who your more worthwhile customers are and make sure they get the customer service they deserve.