We all know the feeling of disappointment that comes when a lucrative contract comes to an end or a great client tells us that they won't be using us in the future for some reason. It's an empty kind of feeling, especially if we have lost the business through no fault of our own.
That said, how we end that relationship is almost as important as how we started it. How many times have you been on the receiving end of a supplier who you are no longer going to use and at the end they get petty, their service drops off, they try and stick you with all kinds of extra expenses and what was once a good working relationship has basically deteriorated into an ugly and bigger divorce? There is a lot to learn about "what not to do" from these kinds of businesses.
My philosophy is to end every relationship with absolute integrity, no matter what. And I go about that by doing the following:
- I make a point of explaining the "exit" process just as much as I did the "welcome" process. I want the client to know that even though they are not going to be using me any more, they will receive absolute professional service right to the end.
- I make sure that every single deliverable that I promised has been delivered and I summarize this in an email (it's good to have it in writing) and I ask them to confirm that everything has been delivered (in writing). You never know where this might come in handy.
- I make a point of keeping all service at the highest possible standard right to the end (and longer if it takes a while to tidy up the loose ends).
- I make a major effort to make the new service provider's (if there is one) taking over of the account easy. Everyone on my team knows that we are to do everything we can to make it easy for the new business because that's how we would like to be treated.
- I write a heartfelt letter to my client to thank them for their business and support - and I always leave the door open for future work, no matter how hardly done by I might think I am.
- I always ask for a written testimonial and I'm specific about what I want them to say.
- I never, under any circumstances, bad mouth the client to third parties. And my team members know to never do this either. Sure, we might have a grumble or two internally, but we move on and put our professional hats straight back on.
At the end of the day, the key is that we always want to be able to hold our head high, knowing that we've done the right thing, even if the other party has not. This philosophy has served me really well, there have been many instances where customers have come back to use me again and one of the main reasons was the professional way I handled our relationship ending in the past. They often shared horror stories of not such pleasant endings with the supplier that took over from me.
Business relationships all have an end, how you end them says a great deal about you. It's smart to always be the consummate professional.