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Going the Extra Mile for the Customer…Then Turning Back

by Bill Harrison on June 13, 2011

3 minute read

Chris Bucholtz wrote a great post in the CRM Outsiders Blog entitled "Going the Extra Mile for Customers - Even When it Bends Processes."  I wrote a comment to the post with my thoughts on how to create a culture that fosters the sort of risk taking that Chris advocates.  You can read my comments at the bottom of Chris' post.This week, I faced the opposite problem to the one Chris presented.

A business associate called to discuss a problem client.  My friend is a creative professional and works as a contractor to the company in question.  They have been his client for a number of years.  Over these years, the customer has become more and more difficult and their working relationship has become increasingly dysfunctional.  The client is disorganized, unable to make decisions, often slow to pay, and generally disrespectful of the time and efforts of others...especially outside contractors.

I have heard my friend express his frustrations with this client many times.  I began to wonder why he was willing to tolerate this treatment.  I figured it was partly due to his concern about losing the company as a customer and having to find a new customer to replace the revenue.

But as I listened more, I found the root of the issue.  My friend is stubborn and wanted to help his client improve.  He was convinced that he knew how to make his customer’s business more successful if management would just listen to him and spend a little time doing what he recommended.

The problem is that the management team at this customer isn’t interested in getting better.  They are happy being dysfunctional.  One day it might put them out of business, but so far it hasn’t.

So what is my friend to do?  He has already gone the extra mile for this customer but no amount of rule bending is likely to make his client’s company better.  He doesn’t control their culture and his ability to affect change is severely limited by his position.  Most importantly, this client is making him miserable.

I advised him to walk away. Sometimes you go the extra mile for a customer and find you are on a dead end road with no choice but to turn back and start over again. There’s nothing wrong with this.  Not all customer/vendor relationships are meant to be.