How to Successfully Lose a Client in 10 Words or Less

Written by Linda Rolf on 9/21/2017 and updated 5/10/2018

It's a basic business truism. There will be those times when things just don't go the way they should. Whether it's a major strategic project or just one of those random unexpected annoyances, things will run off track at the most inconvenient times. When the wheels come undone, we often rely on the expertise of an outside service provider to resolve the problem with us.

What happens next can strengthen a valued service provider relationship, launch a wonderful new one or bring a trusted partnership to an abrupt end.

I was reliving an all too recent series of service mishaps and was struck by the service provider's skillful finger pointing and blame transference abilities. This provider was so remarkably effective in making me become the client I never like to be that I just had to memorialize some of the service provider's responses.

It actually became an entertaining exercise to pluck out the glib one-liners that framed every exchange. I have to wonder if they all went to a special Finger Pointing Made Easy team-building course.

These one-liners aren't especially novel or unique. In fact, I'm sure you've been handed one or more of these catch phrases all too often. What made this exercise so enlightening was the frequency of usage. I could almost hear the Pick-a-Client-Losing-One-Liner wheel spinning in the background.

Which one is your personal favorite?

Blameless – It's not our fault.
Defensive - We don't know what your last provider did.
Blameless – We didn't support this before we made the change.
Boomerang - You didn't tell us about that.
Dismissive - Don't worry. It will be fine.
Disinterested - No one else is having that problem.
Boomerang - We just did what you told us to do.
Defensive - That's not the way it works.
Patronizing - We've been doing this for years.
Defensive - I didn't change anything. It just quit working.
Boomerang - We didn't know you needed it do that.
Disinterested – That's not included in our services.
Defensive - We're doing our best.
Disinterested - It should work.
Disinterested – That's all we can do.
Opportunistic -You need to buy an upgrade.
Blameless – It's your bandwidth.
Blameless – It's your browser.
Opportunistic – Your software is old.
Opportunistic – You should upgrade your hardware.
Disinterested – We're very busy.
Defensive – Let me tell you why we didn't see those errors.
Defensive – I don't know how that works.
Boomerang – Maybe you changed a query.
Boomerang – It was like that before we started.
Patronizing – No one else does it like that.
Boomerang – No one else complains about it.
Boomerang – Maybe you changed the software.
Boomerang – You didn't tell us to do that.

It's such an easy message to change. The outcome is worth the small effort to build a vocabulary of engaged one-liners.

If I ever want to lose a client in a hurry, I know I now have a working list of effective one-lines to get the job done.

Tags: Customer Experience

Linda Rolf has traveled the technology landscape for more than three decades. She has designed and developed enterprise applications for a wide range of industries including insurance, healthcare and private member communities. Linda sees unexpected connections among everyday business and the ever-evolving technologies, propelling Quest Technology Group's clients to new growth successes.

Linda is a passionate entrepreneur, avid learner, creator and connector of ideas and people.

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