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What Can A CSM Do With a Bad-fit Customer?

Bad-fit customers may be bad for business, but they're still customers. What's the best way to help them?
Patrick Icasas
July 6, 2021
Resources

Every product has an ideal customer. That’s who the business should be targeting, because you can provide them the most value and they have the most potential to grow as an account. 

Occasionally, however, a bad-fit customer will slip through. Maybe sales got a little over-eager on their sales pitch. Maybe the customer misunderstood your product page. Or perhaps the functionality they were looking forward to doesn’t work exactly the way they were expecting. 

No matter what the reason, you’ve got a bad-fit customer. 

Most articles on the interwebs will tell you to fire the customer right away and change your sales process so that this never happens again. But that’s not always practical. 

There will be cases where you can’t fire a bad-fit customer. You might not have the authority, for one. For another, management might want to keep them around for their logo. Or maybe you’ve been ordered to keep every paying client that you can - even the bad ones. 

This article will help you make the best of a challenging situation and deal with bad-fit customers who aren’t going to go away any time soon. There are a number of things you can do:

Focus on what you can help them with

Your product might not be able to solve all of their problems, but there are probably still areas where it can still provide value. 

Lean in on the parts of your product that do work for the customer, and streamline that aspect for your customer as much as possible. Compensate for your product’s weakness in one area by shoring up your strengths in another. 

They are still paying for your product, even if they’re a bad fit, and it’s your responsibility to help however you can. 

Offer alternatives to roadblocks

Sure, a customer might be encountering obstacles in using your software, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. 

Consult your product team to see if there are alternate ways of getting them what they need. They may know some hidden or little-used functionality of your software that can serve to meet the client halfway. 

If it turns out there is no such solution, perhaps it’s possible to develop one. Put in a feature request to the development team. If the request is reasonable and achievable, or if the company wants the client enough, the request may be approved. Then you’ll look like a rock star to your customer! 

Finally, if push comes to shove, the customer may be encouraged to develop their own solution. Services like IFTTT and Zapier specialize in extending the functionality of SaaS applications. If your product is present on one of these services, the customer may be able to develop their own custom integrations and can solve their own need. 

Review their use case thoroughly

Sometimes the problem isn’t with your software, but with how they are using your software.

Have a deep conversation with your customer about their internal process. Get both the big picture and the minute details. You may be able to uncover some internal inefficiencies that are affecting how they think your product should be used. 

Share best practices for how other customers are using your product. Show them how the product should be used. Get the opinions of all your customers’ internal stakeholders, from the end-users to the buyer.

If they can adjust their process, and you can perform a few workarounds, you may be able to meet in the middle. 

Remain professional, even if they aren’t

Bad-fit customers may also exhibit bad behavior. They’re going to get pretty frustrated at not being able to do what they want with your software, and those emotions may boil over. They may get testy; even outright confrontational. 

The most important thing is for you to stay professional at all times. They’re not mad at you, specifically. They’re mad at the product. They’re mad at the situation. 

If the customer gets out of hand, then bring in a manager or an executive to help settle the conversation peaceably. Management’s word will carry a lot of weight and they will be able to help defuse the situation. 

And whatever you do, do not throw your team under the bus (even if you really want to). Sure, you might be frustrated at sales for letting the deal with the bad-fit customer through, or peeved at the product team for blocking your feature request, but you have to represent a united front when talking to a customer. 

Adjust your engagement strategy

By now it should be pretty clear that the account won’t be around for very long (barring some Hail Mary from the dev team). Either the customer is going to quit, or management will eventually let them go. 

The best thing to do from a business perspective is to move this customer to a low-touch or automated engagement model. You’ll still provide help as requested, of course, but don’t let it dominate your workload or eat up your time. 

Don’t break your process

Dealing with a bad-fit customer may involve a lot of emotions, constant requests, and negativity. It’s a constant stream of stuff, and sometimes you want it all to just stop

So you go the “easy” route, and you give the customer what they want - doesn’t matter how. Maybe you built their report manually since they can’t do it themselves. Maybe you badger the dev team so much that they cave and do the feature request - just to get you to stop. 

But that’s a slippery slope, and once you take the first step it’ll be very difficult to climb your way back up. 

When the customer gets one report, they’re going to expect it to be ongoing. When they get their first feature request, they’ll request even more “improvements.”

Stand firm and stick to the processes established by your company. If you do support your customer’s view on the situation, pitch your case to your manager, and they will pass that up the chain. Go through proper channels and don’t do any “under-the-table” shenanigans, no matter what your customer suggests. 

In conclusion

As Customer Success, it’s our job to take care of all of our clients - even the ones who shouldn’t be clients in the first place. They’ve signed up for your product or service, and that means you should give them the appropriate levels of support. 

Don’t short-change your bad-fit customers, because it’s still possible to turn them into ideal customers. If not now, then further on down the road when their needs change. 

How you handle the situation now determines how they will see you in the future.

Better relationships. Less churn.

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