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Difficult client? Here’s how to “fire” them kindly

January 23, 2020 in Grow your Maid Service

Last Updated on December 22, 2023 by The ZenMaid Team

Difficult Conversations are Inevitable

No matter what service industry you’re in, you’re bound to have a difficult conversation at some point. Whether you need to have a challenging performance review with an employee or you need to fire a client, these types of confrontations are inevitable. However, you can still make this experience positive and productive for everyone involved.

Did You Take Preventative Measures?

The first step is to take preventative measures. Before you try to fix the problem, ask yourself if this could have been avoided in the first place. 

After all, in order to scale your business, you need to have certain structures and safeguards in place before you work with any clients. Otherwise, Murphy’s law will hit you when you least expect it: anything that can go wrong will go wrong. 

Sure, in an ideal world, your clients are absolute angels. They pay you on time, never cancel appointments, always provide you with the correct keycodes, and treat your employees respectfully. But unfortunately, life happens and sometimes your clients don’t have the level of integrity that you hope for. What started out great quickly turned sour. Other times, things started off bad because of your lack of foresight as an entrepreneur. 

So, be proactive instead of reactive. Ask yourself these three questions

  • Do you have an adequate and comprehensive contract?
  • Were you and your client on the same page from the start of the contract?
  • Did you provide a way for your client to complain?

First and foremost, your contract should cover all of your bases. Work with a lawyer to determine what’s best for your business. If you don’t have a written contract then make one as soon as possible. (We’ve got cancellation policy contract examples right here if you need them.) Your policies set the stage for your future interactions with your clients. You should have complaint, termination, and payment policies within your contract.

Although a contract is a great place to start, it doesn’t solve every problem. Make sure that you and your client are on the same page. This goes beyond just a simple contract. Open communication is key here! Here are a few important things to cover in your contract.

  • Do your clients know which employee is going to clean their home?
  • How often do you communicate with clients?
  • What platforms do you use to communicate?
  • How can they submit a complaint?
  • Where can they find a copy of the contract?
  • How is your cleaning process conducted? 

Just like you handled a new employee onboarding process, create an onboarding process for your client. (Don’t have a new employee onboarding process? Don’t worry; we’ve got a ton of great resources about that! Check them out here.)

Believe it or not, complaints help your business. If your clients have an accessible way to complain, then you can avoid many problems from the start. Plus, your clients may have a better perspective on some things and can help your business grow because of their observations. It all comes down to how you look at things.

This is when you should fire a client

Have you heard the phrase “the customer is always right?” Well, we all know this isn’t always true. 

Let’s say that you’ve exhausted every other option. You implemented every preventative measure you could think of. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to fire a client immediately or give a notice of termination. Either way, you want out!

Ready to fire a client? These are some signs to give you the green light. 

  • Do you dread picking up the phone to answer a call by a certain client? Some clients are so negative that they suck the joy out of running a business. No matter what you do, this client consistently drains your valuable time and even your sanity. The amount of time you put into this difficult customer is not worth the profit you get out of them.
  • This client brings in low profits for your business. If your business needs better profit margins then this is your chance to cut clients who aren’t helping your business. Now you can look for ideal candidates who can help move your business in the direction you need.
  • Do your employees complain about how the client treats them? This is a major red flag! Your employees deserve a safe environment to work in, and it is up to you to make it happen. If a client has a short temper or shows signs of verbal abuse, drop them immediately. 
  •  If you run into a situation where a client falsely accuses your employees of theft, then you have sufficient grounds to fire the client. Has theft occurred from cleaning companies before? Absolutely! But if you have thoroughly investigated the situation and you trust the employee who was accused of the crime, then you can choose not to renew your service contract in the future.
  • Although it is important to be understanding and empathetic as a cleaning business owner, you need to draw the line when it comes to cancellations. Your terms of service should clearly lay out your cancellation policy. If a client abuses your policy time and time again, then you have the right to fire that client.
  • For some reason, money is a taboo subject. But it shouldn’t be — especially not in your business. If you have a client who misses their payment on a regular basis, then you shouldn’t have to chase them down. (Hopefully you already have a system set in place to receive recurring payment from clients).

Here’s how you fire a cleaning client the right way

Firing a client should be a last resort. If you’ve exhausted every effort to reconcile differences, but nothing’s changing, then you might be ready to make the next move. Be professional and courteous so that you don’t burn bridges. Here’s what you should do.

Fulfill your contract if possible: Unless there is justification for immediate action (such as verbal abuse), then try to fulfill your contract. Breaking a contract is a last resort. Plus, a breach of contract may mean that you have certain financial obligations to pay. 

Communicate professionally: Even if you want to tell a client exactly how you feel, don’t go down that road. Avoid angry words or tones. Anything you say can be used against you in the future. So, be polite and professional. Try not to take the situation personally. 

Make a plan before you fire the client: Go into the conversation with a productive outcome in mind. When you tell your client that you are unable to renew a contract, give them the contact information for other companies that you recommend. If you act like you are trying to punish your client, then you end up hurting your reputation. 

Deliver the news professionally: Most cleaning services deliver a 30-day notice to their clients when they want to fire them. This notice can be emailed or given in person. Either way, follow up with the client. If you sent the notice via email, then send a follow-up email a few days later. 

A notice should be brief and concise: You don’t need to write a lengthy explanation. Keep it short and simple. If your client is unhappy with your explanation, you can schedule a day to give them your personal attention. For most of your clients, a brief 30-day notice is sufficient. 

Advice from the experts

Even the industry experts have struggled with this topic. Here’s what they have to say about it.

Courtney Wisely (owner at Magic Maids) said this:

I absolutely love making homes sparkle and that is why I went into this business. I never want any of my clients to feel unsatisfied and I just don’t think we are a good fit for you. I would hate to disappoint anyone and would much rather you be 100% satisfied, so I am going to give you the name of someone that has a bit of a different approach that might work better for you and I truly wish you the absolute best.

Maria Montserrat Dorian, who sold her maid service after 14 profitable years shared this:

If you are firing verbally, I’d say something similar but be honest, be human. If you are struggling for words, tell them that. “This conversation is really difficult for me, and I apologize in advance if I don’t deliver what I’m about to say perfectly. I am no longer going to be able to clean for you. (then insert Courtney’s content).

To wrap up

When you want to fire a client, think deeply about these things: your staff, the lost income, your pride, the terms of agreement, and your previous relationship with this client. Tony Robbins once said  “If you’re willing to do business with just anybody, you’re going to have a terrible business.”

We hope these tips will help you decide what to do with difficult clients! 

Have you had a challenging client situation before? Reach out to our team — we’d love to hear from you!
Not every part of business needs to be hard. Manage your maid service effortlessly with ZenMaid. Try it for free today!

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Amar is the founder and CEO of ZenMaid Software, Inc. He started and ran Fast Friendly Spotless, a maid service in Orange County, CA. With the help of customized software to automate work he successfully operated the service in under 30 minutes per day. He created ZenMaid scheduling software to help other maid service owners do the same.

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