How to Break Up With A Customer (& Still Maintain a Good Relationship)
“It’s not you it’s me.”
You’ve probably heard this phrase a million times in romantic comedies or maybe in your own life, but have you heard that from a client?
In my experience, you’re more likely to hear “It’s not me, it’s you,” when dealing with a client or customer breakup.
When a client relationship comes to an end sometimes it’s due to budget or another issue on their end, but most of the time, it’s due to you not showing them value.
If you don’t show a customer value, why would they keep you around? I know client breakups can be tough, but it’s important to handle them with your head held high and to think of it as a learning experience.
If you’re struggling with the news that a client or customer wants to end your relationship, use these tips to make sure you close it out the right way.
After you’ve taken the time to digest the breakup, it’s time to stand up, wipe the dirt off your shoulders, and start the transition process. Kind of like you would when you’re breaking up with a significant other, you want to gather all of their things and nicely (no vengeful bonfires here) hand them over to the client.
While it may seem hard at first to pass over all of the hard work or resources you’ve accumulated, you must remember that in the end they paid for the work and it’s rightfully theirs.
If you’re an agency, this could include not only strategy and content work you’ve completed, but also passwords or other technology information.
If you’re a SaaS company, perhaps this is a record of all the data that they were storing on your platform over the course of your time together.
You don’t want to be the spiteful ex who holds onto the client belongings when it’s something that they need. You want to make sure they are setup to be successful even if it means that they’re successful without you.
At IMPACT, when we’re going through a customer breakup, here are a couple of things we make sure we pass over to each client, whether they’re leaving on good or bad terms.
Software (i.e. HubSpot)
The client should already have access to whatever marketing platform you’re using, but if you’ve been performing most of the marketing activities on the platform, like HubSpot, you need to make sure the client understands them. Don’t just throw everything a them and say “It’s yours now, good luck!”
We make sure that they understand the tools, at a basic level, so that all of their marketing efforts don’t just end.
I know you may be thinking “Leaving them without this information will show them how much they need me and they’ll come running back,” but, remember, they’re leaving for a reason and it may not be personal.
Take the high road here and help them understand the basics of HubSpot,or whatever tools they use.
Documents and Passwords
At IMPACT, we utilize a lot of Google Business Suites to help us be successful for our clients.
When a relationship is ending, we make sure we give them access to all of the documents, spreadsheets, and passwords we have. We do remove any internal notes that aren’t necessary to share with the client, but all of the reporting we’ve done or content we’ve created gets added into that folder.
This is also where we’ll put a list of all saved passwords we have for them.
Whether it be passwords the client sent us originally or if it’s information we created, it’s handed over..
I’ve even had past clients come to me for passwords that they’ve forgotten to write down, even though they were the ones that created them. It’s that extra step to make sure they have everything they need that leaves a good impression even during a tough time.
While you may not use G-Suite at your company, it’s still important to gather all the documents and passwords you have and send them all at once, whether it be through dropbox or a .zip file from your desktop.
In order to be more collaborative and organized with your clients, we use also use Basecamp for communication rather than email. This allows for more openness and easy access to information while you’re working on the account -- but it can prove difficult to pass over as the relationship ends.
With Basecamp you can export all of the account data and pass that file over to the client, with all of the messages and communication that happened within the app.
If your company doesn’t use Basecamp, or a similar tool, look for an easy export option, or copy the important information from the tool into one document then send that over.
Now, the examples above are all of the things we make sure to do when ending a customer relationship, which may not work for your company. However you go about it, make sure you’re passing over all of the vital information the customer needs to continue without your services/tool. .
Don’t withhold anything in hopes that they’ll fail without you. .
Maintaining a Good Relationship
No matter how the relationship ends, whether it’s your fault or theirs, you want to end the relationship on good terms.
You’ve already kicked it off strong by making sure they have all the t information they need, but now you need to keep it going.
One thing I always say to a client when they're leaving is “If you have any questions about something we’ve done in the past or something you’re struggling with feel free to reach out via email.”
This leaves them feeling more comfortable that they have a resource to go to if they need it and it keeps communication open so that if they do decide to come back, you’re already talking with them. I also make it clear that even if I don’t get back to them right away, I won’t leave them hanging. Again, you want to make sure that they’re set up for success even if it’s without you.
Reviews should be another motivator to maintain a good relationship. If someone doesn’t feel they were treated right in the breakup process they’re likely to share their negative review for potential customers to see. With “88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations,” it’s important to make sure you’re getting good reviews from both current and clients you’re in the middle of a break up with.
As I said, you never know what clients will come back again for more work if they get a budget increase, or if they have quick side project. If they end on good terms you’ll always come top of mind first.
Understanding Why & Improving
Let’s face it, breakups hurt.
Iit’s never easy to look back and realize what you did wrong and how you could have saved the relationship, but it needs to happen. It’ll help you look at the breakup with your client as a learning experience rather than a loss.
Ask yourself what went wrong?
“96% of unhappy customers don’t complain however 91% of them will simply leave and never come back,” meaning it’s up to you to determine what went wrong.
Did you not meet their goals? Was there lack of communication between you and the client? Were they just a bad match for your product or service?
Reflecting on how you feel about the account or customer will give you insight into how they might have felt. If you comfortable, maybe ask them why they left to get a really clear picture into what needs to change with future accounts in an exit-survey.
Knowing what the issue was allows you to makechanges with current or future clients.
Talk to your team about the issues and make sure you all work to come up with a strong solution to stop this for happening.
As you weed out all of the issues or bad clients, you’ll be able to improve your retention rate. Hey, it costs 5-25x more to acquire a new customer than to retain one, so the more you retain the better your profits are.
Having moments of reflections, giving the client everything they need to successful, and maintaining a good relationship with past customers helps you improve yourself and your company.
While breakups can be hard for everyone involved, they don’t have to ruin a relationship. When breaking up with a client it’s important to maintain the “hey, let’s be friends” mindset rather than cutting off ties completely. You never know what this bond could lead to in the future.