Shep Hyken's Customer Service Blog

Some Customers Aren’t Worth Doing Business With

Fire Bad Customers - Low Res

Bad Customers are bad for the Company’s Culture

One of my favorite topics to write and speak about is about what happens when the customer is not right.  I love to say it…

The customer is NOT always right!

But, they are always the customer.  So if they are wrong, let them be wrong with dignity and respect. 

It’s okay for customers to be misinformed or make a mistake.  However, sometimes the customer is not only “not right,” they are abusive and disrespectful toward the people who are trying to do their best to help them, our employees.

I decided it was time to resurrect this concept after hearing the same story three times in a week.  It’s an old Southwest Airlines Herb Kelleher story that I first heard years ago.  The short version is that a passenger kept writing the airline about how unhappy she was.  She didn’t like the boarding process, not having an assigned seat, a small bag of peanuts versus a meal and more.  After a number of letters, one of them finally made its way to Herb Kelleher, the CEO of the airline.  He took the time to respond.  He wrote:

We’re going to miss you.  Love Herb

This simple response sent a clear message to the customer: We appreciate you, but it’s not working out.  It also sent a message to the employees.  We appreciate you, and we value you to the point that we’re willing to put you ahead of the customer.

Some customers aren’t worth doing business with!

When I use that line in at some of my speaking engagements, it’s almost always is met with applause.  In other words, it’s okay to fire a customer – certain customers!  Abusive and disrespectful customers can bring down the morale of the company.  They can take the fulfillment out of the employees’ jobs.  They can suck the positive energy out of the culture.  They put employees into a bad mood.  And, they can make it bad for the next customer.

A company’s culture that evokes the customer is always right rule is just fine until the customer is wrong to the point of being abusive.  Then it creates a dilemma for the employee.  It gives a customer the advantage in that they can bully an employee, pushing them to a point of being very uncomfortable.  It makes an employee apprehensive about what is the right or wrong thing to do.  It can take away an employee’s dignity and self-respect. It can also cause an employee to lose respect and resent his or her manager and even the company.

The customer is not always right.  And some customers aren’t worth doing business with.  It’s okay.  Toxic customers may be bad for you and your company’s health.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, professional speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact (314)692-2200 or For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

(Copyright ©MMXIV, Shep Hyken)

  1. Thank you so much for this article. I often try to explain this situation to our staff members and sometimes they look at me like I am crazy. It is great to see there is merit to the philosophy that some customers can result in loss of spirit and money.

    • Yes, sometimes it’s okay to let the customer go. Still, do it with dignity and respect. You never know when things turn around and they come back. Thanks for the comment.

  2. George Gibbs says:

    Amen!!! In a job interview once,long time ago, question came up is the customer always right? I had the same answer you did, the customer is always the customer.

    Great article,I really hate customers who are abusive of receptionists, customer service people etc.

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