When we find ourselves in the position of having to end a relationship with a client, we usually say we have to "fire" a client. I'm not sure if we actually "fire" clients or if we "quit" clients. After all, they pay us for our services — maybe we work for them. But any way you figure it, sometimes you just have to send one packing.
I'm currently in this spot myself. Remember a few posts ago I talked about "the rule of 2?" Well, those two have to hit the bricks. Looks like I finally gave one of 'em enough rope, and sure ‘nuff, she seems to have hung herself with it. Making it very easy for me to laugh out loud at her if she ever calls again! The other one … Well, this one's tougher.
It's like a long-term relationship coming to an end. It's a little sad. But not sad enough to keep putting up with the crap. And now I have to figure out how to tell this woman that I won't be doing her nails anymore. Nothing has happened that really crossed a line, but after a decade or so we've come to the point where I'm not feeling appreciated and every time she misses an appointment, somehow it's my fault. I understand the importance of letting my clients be right, but I can only take it on the chin and take the blame so many times before I develop a bad attitude. About this many times, as it turns out.
So I'm just feeling taken for granted and underappreciated. And here's the deal — she hasn't built any equity in this relationship. In nearly a decade of being her nail tech, she has missed few appointments. But when she does miss one, I call and get the voicemail and never get a return call. Eventually I get a call from her, making it seem like she's the one who took the initiative to call me. Then she blithely offers her excuse without apology. She never offers to compensate me for my missed time. Since she only misses about one appointment a year, and usually does have a legitimate reason, I don't generally quibble or remind her to read the "fee for missed appointments" sign. I let it go. Yes, this puts that fault on my shoulders, but that's not my point. My point is that after so many years, she has never offered to compensate me of her own free will. Which means she hasn't banked any "brownie points" to save her @$$ when I'm weighing her value as a client.
She has never brought me a beverage. She has never tipped me. And, although rarely, she has blatantly ignored my "grown-ups only" rule and arrived with her child in tow — without so much as calling first to give me a heads up.
These are all little things. Small annoyances and inconveniences that, taken on a case-by-case basis over the years, haven't been worth haggling over. But these last few months have found me feeling beaten down, and even my coworkers dread seeing this woman. In fact, when their schedules allow, they actually hide in the break room to avoid her! A recent missed appointment has left me struggling for the words for the phone call to let her know that it's time for her to find a new nail tech.
My problem is not a fear of confrontation. My problem is finding just the right words. Refraining from an emotional outburst, resorting to "Oh yeah! Well nobody likes you anyway!" Which is what I was just rehearsing in my mind while making my lunch before coming to write this. It comes down to equity.
People build equity in their relationships. Marriages, friendships, as well as professional relationships like we have with our clients. In this case, I find that the length of the relationship is actually working against this client. Because she has not built equity. Never tipped me, never brought me Starbucks, never given me a birthday card. When it comes down to deciding to end our relationship after so many years, when I weigh the pros and cons, she has very little in the "pros" category to outweigh the "cons."
So that's where I'm left. A little sad that I have no attachment to someone who has been part of my life for so many years, and a little angry because I expect that's going to come as a complete surprise to her.