What are bad customers, and how to avoid them?
There will be good ones and bad ones among your customers. What are bad customers, and how do you recognize them?
For a long time, I thought about whether this topic is worth a contribution.
Especially because it is a very sensitive topic, and opinions differ widely.
Particularly with startups for which the first users are extremely important. But when I noticed myself that this question is not that trivial and that it was also important for our startup, I would like to share my thoughts on it.
First of all:
Customers and early customers are, of course, very important for a startup and you should not turn down certain customers in principle. In fact, having a diverse customer base can also be of great benefit.
This is the only way to see how the various customer groups use the product and which segments have great long-term potential and which do not.
But despite everything, there can be bad customers. By bad, I don’t mean customers who don’t have a high retention rate, but customers who can harm your product in one way or another.
A distinction must be made between customers who do not use the product as planned and customers who have a harmful influence on the product or how other customers use the product.
I want to start by defining these two customer groups.
The first group is customers who creatively use your product differently than you planned. This can be a little frustrating because they don’t implement your idea as expected, but it can also offer many possibilities.
Ultimately, you will find out what the needs of the market and customers actually are. These needs can be quite different from the needs that you assumed during product development.
So these types of customers shouldn’t frustrate you, but rather provide insight into the market's needs.
If you identify trends where customers are using your product creatively, but not in the way you planned, get in touch with them.
Ask them why they use the product differently, their thoughts and goals, and perhaps find completely new ways and ideas to expand your product and open up your portfolio.
If you talk to them, these customers can improve your product in the long term and make it more innovative. And even if you are not convinced of this new way of using your product, that’s okay too.
After all, your product and the vision you pursue with your company are also your own.
In the second group are actually defective customers. The point here is not just that the customer does not use the product as intended, but that the purpose of the product is alienated so that other users suffer disadvantages.
This can begin because other users' user experience is negatively influenced, or the use is even legally questionable.
Another type of defective customers are customers who pay, do nothing illegal, and do not negatively influence other customers' experience, but still give you a headache.
There are a couple of examples for these users:
- Excessive use of customer service without a valid reason
- They blame you for everything that goes wrong, even if you are not to blame
- They constantly talk badly about your company everywhere, with no arguments to back this claim.
These users do not use your product seriously and do not appreciate the value of your product.
Many founders wonder how to react to this. Especially if you don’t have a huge user base yet and these “bad” users also pay for the product.
Even if it can sometimes cost sales in the present, obviously malicious users should be warned and access to the product should be restricted in the case of serious violations.
In the long run, this behavior will pay off positively, as it improves the entire user experience over a longer period of time.
Of course, you shouldn’t concentrate too much on it or even actively search for these users. That takes way too much time. Individual users who speak negatively about your product while the majority are satisfied and give positive feedback only discredit themselves.
If your company has reached a certain size and you can also commission employees to take on these tasks without large additional costs, the effort may be justified. Even so, it would help if you were careful that the benefits are greater than the cost.
Summarized: It should be noted that there are two types of users who do not use your product as intended.
Among them, there are the innovative deviants who can certainly help you with product development and on the other hand the defective users who do not advance your product or who even harm the product.
So always keep an overview of your users and get in touch with them. This will give you a lot of important insights.