In a time when every prospect counts, there is such a thing as a bad news customer. If you have been in business long enough, a bad news customer has burned you. They will waste your time, energy, resources, and in some cases, maybe even damage your reputation.

We expect challenging customers. We knew this when we signed on. These are people we do our best to please. We are set up to learn from the experience and in doing so, we streamline our business. But I am talking about really bad customers. The kind that can cost you money, and I mean a lot of money. They will destroy your reputation and the morale of your staff. Such customers are utterly disruptive, and in the end, impossible to do business with. Once materials are installed, it is difficult to cut your losses. The only thing we learn from these customers is to never accept such outrageous behavior again.

Don’t get me wrong: challenging customers can be good for your organization. It keeps us on our toes. We know as entrepreneurs we are going to need to please those difficult customers. Challenging customers are a fact. The key to this is finding the right balance of patience and tolerance. But challenging customers, while somewhat difficult, become satisfied customers because we rise to the occasion and fine-tune our services. Beyond that, what we have left are toxic customers who are not pleasable.

If you can successfully work with a lot of diverse types of people, you will build some great relationships and trust. If you make someone feel valued and work with them, they will appreciate you and your rapport will be great. But these bad customers are determined to remain unsatisfied despite your best efforts.

There is such a thing as a customer you do not want. These customers are out there just waiting to prey on their next victim. Such catastrophes want every detail done their way. They may be used to giving orders and having them dutifully obeyed. They can become your worst nightmare. These people just can’t be pleased. And because even the best workmanship and service is not good enough, they refuse to pay balances when considerable monies in materials and labor are tied up, not to mention your profit. These costly customers will cost you even more money with attorneys and legal fees. When every experience is unpleasant, you have a rotten apple.

The trick is to recognize them before they destroy you. But how to we spot costly customers? When a customer challenges the validity of everything you do and say, and they constantly complain about your customer service and methods, watch out. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get records on a dangerous customer.

Do not be afraid to say, “I don’t think we’re a good fit for your needs,” and let them find someone else to serve them. An excerpt from a BNG Holdings’ blog post titled “You Don't Need Every Customer, You Just Need the Right Ones” says: “If you can remove that 10% of the people who are wasting 90% of your time, you can go focus on finding good customers who are the right fit for your business.”

It’s always interesting to find out which competitor finally sells to a bad customer, and you usually end up hearing about it.

Then there are the con artists who are hard to recognize because part of the con is to be pleasant at the outset. They’ll usually talk fast. The speed of conversation helps cover up their anxiety about the deceits and the falsehoods of the operations they are choosing to live. They tend to dress well. They may act like making lots of money is easy. Their confidence levels will typically be over-inflated. When you talk to them, they sound confident and make you believe anything is possible. Implore a little curiosity and ask friendly but deeper details about their claims and success. You may get the feeling they are uneasy doing so.

A customer who we had installed Armstrong Designer Solarian inlaid vinyl for had a minute pit in the floor that was unnoticeable and could have been filled. When she brought it to our attention, she had her attorney with her, who had squared off the pit with small strips of masking tape. When they were not looking, just to prove a point, I removed the tape, and the attorney was never able to find the so-called defect again. Ultimately, the attorney quit, but that did not pay my bill.

Seller beware. Not all consumer losses can be expected. Once I sold a large job that the customer financed. So, no down payment. After installation, the customer at once declared bankruptcy. Since he did it immediately before the financial institution completed their paperwork, I was stuck with the bill. It was all planned out. This is why I generally get half down with every deposit. It takes the sting out of an otherwise total loss.

According to Investopedia, a source of financial content on the web, if someone refuses to pay an invoice for no rightful cause, you can take your case to small claims court. Get a consultation with your attorney for legal remedies. 

Many of the legal maneuvers you can do yourself with some simple online instructions. For further help, there are how-to legal pamphlets in most office supply stores, but always be sure to consult an attorney.