For a long time, there has been a business mantra that the customer is king. Today I had a situation where it felt clear to me the customer was clearly in the wrong. So as a business owner, I had to make a decision to go against the grain.

We’re a small marketing and PR agencybased near Bury St Edmunds in rural Suffolk. Although we’re not exactly Saatchi & Saatchi, neither are we a one-man band company, and we have a rich and varied client base across East Anglia. One such client, who shall remain nameless, owed us money for a website we’d designed and built for his business. The site had been live for nine months and the client had still not paid us all the money owing for the job. Initially, we spent some time chasing invoice payment in the routine way. Then we had a call to say the client was experiencing financial difficulties. We worked out a payment plan that suited us both. We felt happy that we had behaved admirably and with understanding. But when the time came to make the first payment no money appeared. So we chased again. You can see the pattern. After some time, the client offered us a token gesture payment, still pleading poverty. We listened again and extended his credit terms.The story goes on and nine months later, there is still 20% of the invoice outstanding. So, here is the question. When do you decide enough is enough? For me today, it was not about the money. It was about a feeling I had towards the client. Something was just not right and I felt there was more to this than met the eye. I felt he was trying it on. So, we took the decision to turn off the client’s website until the account has been settled. In doing so, we have clearly lost the client who was angry and accused us of not being understanding of his situation. But why should I accept the sob story any longer? We don’t need clients that cause us this amount of trouble and cost us time and money.As a small business owner, where customer service is crucial, when do we stand up and say:’ You know what, the customer isn’t always right and I’m going to tell him’. We are conditioned to be afraid to lose a client, and so we bend over backwards to be helpful. But there has to be a limit. We also have the right to say;’ I don’t want to work with you’. That is one of the delights of being a business owner.So for the first time today I took the decision to abandon a customer and not bend over backwards anymore. And you know what, it feels good.

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