One of my favorite topics to write and speak about is about what happens when you encounter a toxic customer. Here is what you need to know: The customer is not always right!

It’s okay for customers to be misinformed or make a mistake. However, sometimes a customer is not only “not right” but also abusive and disrespectful to the people trying to do their best to help her (your employees).

After hearing the same story three times in one week, I decided it was time to resurrect this concept. It’s an old Southwest Airlines-Herb Kelleher story I first heard years ago. A passenger had been writing the airline to say how unhappy she was with the service. She hadn’t liked the boarding process, the no-assigned-seats system, the small bag of peanuts, etc. After a number of complaints, one letter finally made it all the way to then-CEO Kelleher.

And he actually took the time to respond. He wrote back, saying simply, “We’re going to miss you. Love Herb.”This simple response sent a clear message to the customer: We appreciate you, but we are unable to continue working with you. It also sent a message to the employees: We appreciate you, and we’re willing to put you ahead of the customer.

Some customers aren’t worth your time. When I make this statement at one of my speaking engagements, it’s almost always met with applause. In other words, it’s okay to fire certain customers. One abusive and disrespectful customer can bring down the morale of your entire company. He can suck the positive energy right out of the workplace and put employees in a bad mood—which makes for a bad experience for the next customer.

If your company lives by the customer-is-always-right rule, it can create a dilemma for your employees. It makes the customer believe she can bully an employee. This makes an employee apprehensive about what is the right or wrong thing to do and takes away his dignity and self-respect. It can also cause him to resent his manager and the company as a whole.

The customer is not always right, and it’s okay to let go of a toxic customer. Some customers just aren’t worth doing business with.

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Shep Hyken is a professional speaker and best-selling author. For more information on Shep’s speaking presentations, call 314-692-2200, email shep@hyken.com or go to www.hyken.com