How to Deal with Demanding Customers

All businesses have customers that are demanding and sometimes more trouble than they are worth. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to decide if it’s time to let a demanding customer go.

No matter how big or small your organization is – you’re always going to run into the very demanding customer who wants to make you pull your hair out. And just like with risks you analyze, there are some worth dealing with and some that are just too much of a bother for too little gain. Sometimes you have to pick and choose and decide which ones to cut loose.

To make that choice, ask yourself a few questions and then follow-up on your answers to decide how to deal with the demanding customers. 

Do they really know what they want?

What you really want to know here is, does this demanding customer have good handle on their own requirements? They’ve come to you, but if they don’t really know what they want, then they’ll continue to be demanding and may never be a satisfied customer. You may not even ever see financial gain from helping them.

First, spend some time with them – help them to clarify, both for you benefit and for their benefit, what exactly it is that they need. Perhaps they even need to go back to the drawing board and figure out what they need. Either way, it’s important that you try to help them without spending too much of your time just getting them to that point of realization that they should have been at before they even came to you. Otherwise, remaining profitable will be difficult for you.

Is this potentially repeatable business?

Are they bringing you a need that may create repeat business for you? If so, then that makes them even more worth your time and effort to continue to work with them. I realize that this economy is difficult for all size businesses so we really don’t want to lose any size potential customer, but it’s especially important to hang on to those that will likely keep coming back to the well. And no one knows your business better than you – you’ll likely be able to quickly analyze the situation and figure out whether or not they’re likely to need you for future business as well.

Will working with this demanding customer limit me from being able to satisfy other customers?

This happens all the time – one customer ends up taking all of your time making it difficult to tend to your business and your other customer’s needs. This even happens at home – for me at least – when one of my kids starts demanding all of my time or my wife’s time. And when you have a lot of kids like we do, you have to watch those situations and carefully manage them and correct them.

In the case of a customer, figure out whether or not this customer’s needs is taking too much away from your ability to service your other customers. If it is and the dollar gain is small, you may need to move on and cut this customer loose. If the dollar gain is potentially large, then you have bigger decisions to make…because if you’re stretched too thin you can help everyone all of the time…unless you’ve figured out how to clone yourself!

Do they bring other potential customers with them?

This is an important one that can never be taken too lightly. One customer – especially if you make them very happy no matter how needy or demanding they are – can sometimes push a small business over the top financially with the other potential customers they can bring with them. Look for those opportunities, because no matter how demanding the client is – if they can help you turn a major corner towards success with their ‘friends’ that come onboard, too, then by all means put full effort into them.

Is working with them in line with my overall business goals and mission?

Sometimes you have to ask the tough question – is continuing to service this demanding customer still in line with my goals and mission for my organization? If they have started to pull you in a direction that does not align well with what your plans are for your company, then it may be time to cut them loose. It’s tough to tell a customer ‘no’ – especially a paying customer – but if you’re company is not benefiting from that business, then you may need to bypass it anyway.

Do I have the necessary resources and staff to eventually make them happy?

And finally, look at whether or not you truly have the resources to make them happy. This is somewhat covered above already, but it bares the need for further discussion. Do you have the staff available to take this customer on and make them a happy one? If not, send them elsewhere because no one will win in the end. You must know your limitations.


Even though we usually want to say ‘yes’ to every customer, it’s not always possible. Some, we can never make happy. And others, we’ll never be able to pull together the amount of time and resources necessary to do the work for them – at least not in the near future. Their demands are just too great. The key is to understand your limitations and work with them while staying within the goals you have for our own organization. Win with the right customers and in the end, you’ll be more productive and profitable for it.

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