ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 34
How to Handle Toxic Customers
By Piyush Patel
ne day, I was shocked to
find out that one of our
account representatives was
being mistreated by a vice president
of procurement for one of our largest
enterprise customers. Immediately, I
sat down with our representative to
get to the bottom of the situation. She
explained that she knew the customer
represented a significant part of our
revenue. Making that customer upset
would mean losing that business, so
she had suffered in silence.
One of our core values at our company is respect, which I define as: We
will not tolerate the disrespect of people
or property. Our customer contact's
mistreatment of our employee clearly
violated our company's core values.
I had a decision to make: Do I
sweep the situation under the rug
to keep the business? After all, this
individual didn't work for me. Our
company's core values weren't his
company's core values. Or do I hold to
our company's core values - my core
values - at the risk of losing one of
our biggest customers?
PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR
After hearing our account representative's side of things, I knew immediately
what had to be done. At our company,
we hired and fired according to our
core values. It didn't matter that the
customer contact didn't work for me.
Our customers might not have known
our core values, but I didn't want customers who would break them.
Reassuring our employee that she
wouldn't have to deal with the customer's mistreatment anymore, I told her
the next time he called to have the call
sent straight to my phone.
A couple of days later, the call came
in. The customer contact asked if he
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could speak to the account representative, but I cut him off. I explained that
I wouldn't tolerate the mistreatment
of my people. In a matter of minutes,
I proceeded to fire one of our largest
enterprise customers, and we shut off
the company's access to our service.
When the call ended, I went back
to our employee's desk and explained
what happened. She became tearyeyed, overwhelmed by the knowledge
that she was more important to our
company than money.
At our company,
we hired and
fired according to our
There wasn't a plan in place for how
to recoup the costs of losing a large
customer like that one. To borrow
the adage, actions speak louder than
words. Our employee's situation was
a chance for me to show her - and
my entire company - that our values
were more than just words.
The next day, I got a call from that
customer's boss, asking why he was
being inundated with calls from his
employees about not being able to
access our service. I explained how his
employee had mistreated mine and
told him that I'd fired his company
as a customer. The only way I would
let the company be our customer
again, I said, was to sign a new deal
that ensured that particular contact
wouldn't interact with our company.
The company happily agreed, and we
never had an issue with it again.
IT'S ABOUT MORE THAN MONEY
According to a 2015 study published
by IBM, the top goal for millennials
in the workplace is to make a positive impact on their company. Toxic
employees are a roadblock to achieving
that goal, as they drag down everyone
around them. They have a detrimental
effect on the company's culture. Toxic
customers can also have a negative
impact on your culture as they interact
with your employees.
In some cases, toxic customers can
be even more dangerous as they typically remain unseen by anyone but the
person affected by their negativity for
a long time. That can lead to situations
like our account representative's, in
which the affected employees feel the
need to suffer in silence.
There are many symptoms of
toxicity: Quality of work will suffer.
Productivity will decrease. Eventually,
employees will question whether it's
worth coming into work each day to
deal with toxic customers. In many
cases, they'll quit without ever letting
anyone know the real reasons why.
It was only after I learned how to
identify my company's core values and
made the commitment to my people
- that we'd stick to those core values
no matter what - that we found real
cultural success. Sure, we were extremely profitable, but success is about
more than money.
Your company's core values should
be the foundation for how your company is run - internally and externally. For your company's core values to
have meaning, you can't compromise
them for short-term profits.
Patel is a business mentor,
speaker and author based in
California. He wrote Lead
Your Tribe, Love Your Work:
An Entrepreneur's Guide to Creating a
Culture That Matters.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of ILMA Compoundings March 2018
LETTER FROM THE CEO
WHAT’S COMING UP
In the Know
IS A JOINT VENTURE THE ANSWER?
WHERE’S YOUR INVENTORY?
SPEAKING YOUR LANGUAGE
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - Cover1
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - Cover2
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 1
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 2
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - LETTER FROM THE CEO
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - INSIDE ILMA
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 5
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 6
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 7
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 8
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 9
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - WHAT’S COMING UP
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 11
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - INDUSTRY RUNDOWN
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - In the Know
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - International Insight
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 15
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 16
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 17
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - Market Report
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 19
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - IS A JOINT VENTURE THE ANSWER?
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 21
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 22
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 23
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - WHERE’S YOUR INVENTORY?
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 25
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 26
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 27
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 28
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 29
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - SPEAKING YOUR LANGUAGE
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 31
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 32
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 33
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - BUSINESS HUB
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 35
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - COUNSEL COMPOUND
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 37
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 38
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - WASHINGTON LANDSCAPE
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - Member Connections
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 41
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - Cross Connections
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - 43
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - PORTRAIT
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - Cover3
ILMA Compoundings March 2018 - Cover4