It was late at night when they checked in, a husband and wife who had booked two weeks at my inn in Bar Harbor back when I was an innkeeper. I knew within five minutes of their arrival this was not going to go well.
They demanded service that I was not able to provide — valet, restaurant, bar, pool. My property did not offer those amenities.
I knew there would be no way they would enjoy their stay with me and we would all be miserable. I decided to sit them down for the “talk.”
I kindly suggested they would be better off staying with someone else and offered to find them a room at a more resort-like property. They agreed. I made the breakup as easy as possible by returning their room deposit and making all of the arrangements for them.
It was the best decision for all of us.
The downside of this breakup was that I found myself with a vacancy at the height of the season. I also worried that they would be unhappy with me and share negative comments about my business.
Fortunately, those worries were unwarranted. I rented their vacant room quickly and later learned that this couple contacted the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce to praise me for providing them with exceptional customer service. They had a fabulous visit to Bar Harbor and planned to return.
Breaking up with a customer is hard to do but it’s often for the best when you realize that the relationship is not going to work out well. Too often we try to be everything to everyone out of fear of losing a customer or negative feedback. But there are times when a breakup is the best way to go.
The No. 1 reason to break up with a customer is that you’re not able to meet their expectations. When this occurs, it’s best to have the “talk” with the customer: Clearly explain what you can and can’t offer and suggest solutions and referrals to other businesses that can better meet their needs.
A second good reason for breaking up with a customer is that they demand so much of your time that it’s having a negative impact on your business. Consider the return on investment and if this relationship is harming your ability to conduct your business and your relationship with other customers. If a customer is causing stress and creating havoc, let them go.
The third reason to break up with a customer is that they treat you or your staff poorly. I always have been fiercely protective of my employees. They deserve to be respected. It’s time to break up with a customer if they are consistently rude or belittling to the people that are most important to your business.
Breaking up is hard to do. Similar to our personal relationships, it starts with knowing yourself and your business, what you can and can’t offer, what you want out of the relationship and what is in the best interest of the customer, your staff and yourself.
The bottom line for me in this situation was that I wanted this couple to have a wonderful Maine vacation so they would return and tell others to visit. I knew I wasn’t the right person to provide them with the vacation they were looking for so I sent them off to someone who could.
As is true with many breakups, it was difficult at first, but in the end it all worked out for the best and we all lived happily ever after.