Salespeople or account representatives are especially familiar with this. If you’ve only got so many hours to manage for yourself, and you’ve only got so much energy, be like smart sales reps who only go after clients who aren’t a drain on their limited resources.
“Limited resources” can include a lot of things. There’s the time limitation, of course. Then there are the resources some extra-demanding clients may require from your company. Maybe you have to get help from other departments to support some of your customers. Or maybe you have to ask your manager to keep making exceptions to company policies for a particular client.
Then there are emotional resources. Some clients are … ahem … less pleasant to work with than others. Less patient.
And if they’re really bad, less professional.
That all takes a toll. It’s a kind of overhead cost.
A friend of mine is a high-level financial advisor. He has some clients who love him – he always feels energized working for them. Other clients … not so much.
Once, back in my advertising days, my agency lost an account. I had been working on this account, suffering through dealing with an inconsistent, impatient, and often verbally abusive client. So it was a relief when one day our team leader announced in a meeting: “Company X isn’t going to be sending us their jobs anymore.”
The room was quiet for a moment. Then somebody said, “Are we sad about that?”
So, let’s face it: Some customers/clients just aren’t good to work for. Their “overhead” – whether that’s in servicing time, resources required, or how much emotional strain they elicit – are simply not worth their revenue. And typically (here’s the 80/20 rule again), these “super-awful” clients tend to be worse than other clients, not by a little, but by a factor of 4x or 16x.
Unfortunately, as businesses, we typically handle these problem clients after they’ve become clients. We screen them out (if ever) only after they’ve already started to damage morale and profitability.
What if we started screening them earlier? Like in the marketing department?
3. Negative Personas.
You know what a persona is, right? I’m talking about marketing personas, aka customer profiles. Marketers use personas to help them customize the messages they send out to keep customers and to offer special services or tools and to create content to retain certain customer types.
It’s a best practice now in marketing to create content that’s specifically designed to engage with each different type of persona. And so any content marketer who’s been at their job awhile has probably developed a few customer personas.
Maybe you have, too.
But have you ever defined a negative persona? A type of customer you do not want to attract?
I recommend you do.
To create this negative persona, you’ll need extensive help from both the sales department and customer service. You might want to pull finance in, too. Because I guarantee that if you look at your customers’ overhead costs (including the toll they take on your sales’ and customer service staff’s morale) they will be able to tell you which types of customers they really don’t want.
In fact, sales may already have a working profile of this type of person. They may already be deliberately not following up on certain types of leads. Or they may be trying to avoid dealing with some clients.
You may also need some input from your executive team. It is possible that your #1 negative persona profile is actually a customer type for which your senior staff is developing a strategy. Your company executives may think this customer profile is profitable – but only because they haven’t considered the “invisible” overhead costs of these customers.
That is not an easy conversation to have (no kidding, right?). But if you’re in an open, high-functioning organization, it might be one of the most profitable conversations you can have.
No matter what department we’re in, or what level employee we are, we all want more results. Many of us don’t just want those results – we need them if we want to keep our jobs.
But there comes a time when you’ve maxed out your hours. When you’ve maxed out your energy, your enthusiasm, and your budget. Then there is no “more” of anything to put into your system.
At that point, if you want to get more results, the system itself has to get more efficient.
Finding your super customers and firing your “super awful” customers is one way to make your system more efficient. A good customer management strategy can get you there.
Back to you
Does your company treat all its customers alike? Or do you have customer tiers, with a minimum level of customer care (lest you become United)?
We welcome you to share your thoughts in the comments.