Core values are the blueprint with which you build your company's culture. If they're genuine, authentic, and consistently practiced, that's when great things start happening with the people side of your business. 

Unfortunately, customers can sometimes get in the way of your ability to live the company's core values.  When that happens, what do you do?

My answer: Fire your customer.

We all know how hard it is to land a new account. Throughout prospecting and qualification efforts to closing and implementing the deal, you're fighting for every square inch of progress toward adding that new logo to the roster.  It may seem crazy to consider firing a customer you just spent thousands of dollars to acquire, but sometimes that's exactly the right course of action.

At Hireology, we've designed our culture around five core values. One of those values is something we call "No A**holes."  For us, it means that we have zero tolerance for team members who treat one another disrespectfully; we assume positive intent in our interactions, and we work to find common ground.

But that core value also extends to our customer base.

Competing in tough markets requires thick skin. We're not showing up to work expecting it to be easy, but sometimes the level of intensity can cross a line that violates this important core value, and swift action is required.

In one very memorable case, a new customer took the opportunity to repeatedly berate a member of our Customer Success team over email, using incredibly disrespectful language and attacking our team member personally. However, this individual controlled our destiny with what we would certainly consider to be a sizable account.

Our team member wanted to do her job and save the business, despite the fact that this belligerent customer contact was making her feel terrible on an almost daily basis. We could have coached her to relax, take a deep breath, and let it go. After all, customers are hard to acquire and we have numbers to hit, right?

Wrong. I called the customer myself and respectfully informed them that we weren't the right vendor for his company. Additionally, I told him that we were refunding 100 percent of his purchase price and recommending three competitors that he could call so that he could get the right solution in place.

Did it cost us money?  Sure did. But do you think our people know that our core values are authentic? 

When your people leave the office, are they telling their significant other that they're proud to work for a company whose core values are lived each and every day? Or are they instead sharing their disappointment in the fact that you preach, but don't practice?

I see examples of companies failing to back up their core values almost on a weekly basis: The core values plaque on the wall in the lobby says that your company has a core value of "Respect," yet the CEO refuses to terminate a top-performing sales rep who treats people poorly; or the company that says "The Customer Is Always Right" and then refuses to issue refunds when the customer wants to cancel shortly after signing on.

Your team is watching you. They want to know that you're prioritizing their well-being over hitting numbers, and they want to work for a company whose core values are genuine. As the leader of the business, it's your job to define, create, and maintain the culture of the company, and that means making the tough calls to ensure that the culture continues to thrive.

Sometimes, that means firing a customer.

Published on: Jan 19, 2018