This article appeared in the Founder Confessions series on Inc.com.
For most companies, customers are considered the life-blood of their business, and as such, entrepreneurs will do just about anything to please them. After all, without customers or clients, a business would just be an expensive hobby.
Following the success of companies such as Zappos and Southwest Airlines, who are known for taking extraordinary measures in serving their customers, many companies have put customer service as their number one priority.
In fact, many companies have adopted the mantra, “customer service is not a department, it’s everyone’s job.”
However, what happens when you come across a customer you just can’t satisfy? How much abuse are you willing to take before you draw the line?
Here are four horrifying stories about customers that just couldn’t be pleased:
One of our clients called an ex-employee a “nig*er” to his face.
The first time the client met this employee, he shook hands with him, and then pretended to double-check his wallet, watch and rings, as if to imply that our employee might have stolen his jewelry. We laughed it off, thinking it was just a joke.
A few weeks later, the client called this employee at 6am on his mobile phone, screaming that his campaigns had not been turned on and we were running out of time–he’d sent an email around 11pm the previous night asking for the campaigns to be made live first thing in the morning. The campaigns were turned on promptly by the employee working from his house. At 10am, we get a call from the client screaming to the employee that the ads were getting too many clicks because the event had gone viral and we should stop it immediately–and this time he unleashed a torrent of abuse, including the aforementioned n-word.
Needless to say, we fired the client that very afternoon.
Epilogue–we found out from another source that the company owner was a clinically diagnosed psychopath!
So, when I first started my business helping writers get published, I made the mistake of taking on a man who was in prison as a client. He wanted help publishing a book on relationships, which was fine. I believe in giving people second chances.
I spent hours transcribing the manuscript from handwritten pages, hours more editing it into a coherent unit, hours more taking his crumpled artwork and enlarging and revising it to create a presentable cover, and I did all of it without taking a dime from him. The deal was we would split the royalties, but I knew it wasn’t likely he was going to get massive sales.
He complained about everything and decided that he didn’t want to work with me anymore, which was fine because by this time I was more than done on working with him. He had his nephew email to request the files, which I sent. Then, he wanted me to set up an account for him, and complained to the BBB because I wouldn’t do it. He accused me of stealing and taking advantage of him. I pulled his book off the market after that, and he then threatened to sue me for doing harm to his “business”. Fortunately, that lawsuit never happened.
I have never been treated so poorly for trying so hard to help someone.
My wife and I founded a medium-sized digital marketing agency. We delivered an amazing and award-winning product for a client. The client was bought out soon-after by a venture capital partnership.
The lead VC examined our contract, cut us out and brought in his own marketing company. We couldn’t believe our original client didn’t defend us and later found out that the lead VC had entered a personal relationship with our client.
Things were tense, but months later we had largely let it go when this VC encountered my wife in an elevator, cornered her, pressed himself at her and told her he can make life very difficult for [us]. There was one other woman in the elevator who witnessed the whole incident.
We filed complaints, barred him from the building, etc., later discovering that he had a history of aggressively over-asserting himself in this fashion.
Oh, it was a day that would put The Devil Wears Prada to shame!! My new client was bringing in a healthy amount of money for our company, but felt they could literally call us 24-hours, put down the staff and do whatever else they wanted to. He wanted to meet on his time table, he cut people off mid-sentence, would put his hands in people’s faces and would let out groans whenever we had meetings. He would take calls on his personal phone and hurl insults, no one was safe. As a result, no one wanted to see (or hear) him coming.
This client was a nightmare, but helped us better vet our clients–not just work with someone because you feel they can benefit from your services.
This guy would tell my staff how awful their marketing ideas where and that PR is not hard. Nothing–and I mean nothing–made him happy.
He consistently told everyone that he could do a better job so we allowed him to and ended the contract. Everyone felt better and slept better too. Sure, we think of all the ways we could have saved that relationship, but our other clients are happy and we focus on that rather than the nightmare client.