Being a contractor can be a thankless job when dealing with bullying homeowners. These customers are rude, condescending, and manipulative. While you may be tempted to see through each job to its completion, there are rare cases when firing your customer is the best option.
Every contractor has their own line for when to fire their customer. Still, Contractors Society of America outlines some of the most common signs that it might be time to terminate their business:
The 5 Common Signs
- Mention of Lawyer or Lawsuit
- Breach of Contract
- Raising of Voice
- Bypass of Chain of Command
- Threat to Not Pay or Pay Less
1) Customer Mentions a Lawyer or Lawsuit
Many contractors will pack up and leave the second they hear homeowners reference a lawyer or lawsuit. If the customer is even considering litigation, it’s a tell-tale sign to get out of the job ASAP.
Customers with a lawsuit mentality are more trouble than they’re worth. Furthermore, even if they don’t intend to sue, they are demonstrating a propensity to manipulate the situation.
2) Customer Breaches the Contract
Many contractors with experience with bullying homeowners draft contracts for each job phase. If you can get the homeowner to sign each contract, their breach of the terms is a time to move on. In these cases, their violation of the terms will give you cause to leave.
These homeowners often attempt to expand new projects to a previously agreed-upon job. Unfortunately, this is when the phase contracts serve their greatest purpose, as you cannot afford to change your objectives mid-project.
3) Customer Raises Their Voice
When a customer raises their voice at you or one of your colleagues, it’s time to fire them. Some contractors have a higher threshold for verbal abuse than others and may choose to see the job through.
However, when customers start acting disrespectfully, it’s time to go. These individuals may go as far as threatening you and your staff, which is when things can get extremely tense. Again, it’s best to walk away before these things occur.
4) Customer Bypasses Chain of Command
Some contractors have experience with homeowners calling their subs individually and attempting to act as the GC for the project. Once you learn of such behavior, it’s time to pull the plug on the project.
These customers will never be satisfied and will only cause confusion about how the final project is supposed to materialize. You can tell them that they can do the entire thing themselves if they want to supervise the project.
5) Customer Alludes To Not Paying or Paying Less
The project must cease when the homeowner alludes to non-payment or reduced payment. When you’ve already agreed to the terms of the job, the customer cannot change it mid-project (unless you can’t complete it). Some homeowners will use this as a manipulation tactic.
In some cases, the customer does intend to pay the full wage but is merely trying to extract extra labor from your staff. This is highly unprofessional on their part and is grounds to fire them on the spot. These types of mind games are not worth your trouble as a contractor.
How to Fire Your Client
If you’ve reached your tipping point, it’s time to fire your client. You can tell them in person or over the phone. If they’ve breached your contract, you can easily cite that as your reason for terminating the relationship. The same is true of non-payment or reduced payment.
Suppose you must fire a client because of their verbal abuse or other unsavory behavior. In that case, you must be firm and consistent with your explanation. Please don’t resort to their tactics; remember to keep things professional.
Unfortunately, they will probably leave you a bad review either way. The good news is that most future customers understand that some clients are impossible to work with and won’t hold their antics against your business.