How NOT to have a working business relationship

My company is of the B2B type: our customers are other companies. One of them has grown in visibility to several of our departments lately because they have a staff member whose professionalism is at best questionable. When he started getting rude, various of my coworkers would respond to his emails to try to help, only to be the next target of his rudeness. First, he has annoying communication habits:

sends an email
a few minutes later has another thought on the topic and sends another email
a few minutes later has another thought on the topic and sends another email
a few minutes later has another thought on the topic and sends another email
We answer his question
he questions our answer
next day he sends another email demanding an answer to his latest question (just above)

Then to top that off, he became flat out rude. In various email inquiries, he has made these statements:

What do you have to say about that? (bolded)
This is not a workable situation. (in an email he flagged as high priority)
[your data] is completely USELESS. (bolded)
I am as yet to receive any answer to this question. Can you tell me when you planning on answering this?
I do not accept your explanation as correct.
I am imagining that y’all are just “ruminating/forming your response” to this and will get back to me soon?
Is this just laziness on y’all’s part?

which he quickly followed up with:

It seems I hit a nerve with this one. I apologize about the “laziness” comment but otherwise I stand by my observations in the email below.

At least we know where he stands… I guess. :rolleyes:

Edited to add: Hmm, in reading over this, it sounds like things that a frustrated cable tv customer would write to Comcast! LOL! We are nothing close to that industry, so this is really unusual customer interaction for us. Our customers are usually highly professional and polite.

My first thought is to go over his head, find a manager/supervisor/owner etc and present all these emails to that person and tell him that your crew is starting to get rather insulted by his attitude. Suggest they talk to him about changing the tone of his emails (at least towards your staff) AND only sending out one email per question…or something along those lines.
Following from that, if that doesn’t work, ask them to have another employee do the communications with your company because he’s keeping your staff too tied up.

My second thought is to just tell your staff to delete all non-important emails they get from him. That’s what I had to do with someone. It’s a company I buy stuff from. Once a week their sales person would send me an email and that was fine, but then he started getting really, what’s the word, um, worried(?) about my orders. If I skipped an order he’d ask me why. If I brought in a competing product he’d ask me how well it’s doing. During the week he’d nag me about this or that. I told his boss a few times that I was getting two or three (or four or five) emails a week from him. Then I got an email to tell me he wouldn’t email me anymore except for one on Monday’s to see if I needed any more product…got like 4 more emails that day.

Anyways, he’s not changing. If it’s not directly related to his product I just don’t answer it. It was freeing when I realized that I didn’t need to answer all his petty questions.
Granted, he’s not by any means rude, just always worried about losing business.

My spam filter would get a new entrant if I worked there.

We’ve fired the occasional customer before, and it’s a great feeling. Sometimes it’s only in hindsight that you realize how much time and money that one customer was causing you, and how much more money you can make by focusing your efforts on other customers.

And since you opened this in the Pit, tell the guy to go fuck a cactus.

In a previous life, I had a client like that. I had the satisfaction of testifying against him in his embezzlement trial, where he got 15 years without probation.

Sounds like a normal income tax season at my office. :slight_smile:

Although, like the OP, most of our clients are pretty professional about it. Still, every year there’s someone who refused to any tax planning for the last twelve months and who wants instant answers to complex tax questions that are asked piecemeal so that we can never quite tell what the real question is.

Start CCing his boss on all replies.

I used to work for a company that at one point started having the Big Regional Kahunas do a round of visits to the factories explaining the previous year’s results, strategic changes and stuff like that. Most of us in factories would already know for example if there was a new factory being built, but had no idea about stuff going on in Sales or about new Logistics agreements; the people from Logistics might not have known yet about the new product line that was getting more sales orders than we could cover. Having someone come, explain those things, answer questions, take suggestions… was very well received.

One year, someone had had the idea of “paretizing the customers”, getting rid of that small amount that would be causing most of the problems: they asked each CSR (B2B salesperson) to name two customers she’d love to never hear from again. Some only had one, one asked if she was allowed to name three. A handful of names came up again and again; others only came up once but they only had contact with that one CSR. Those customers got fired.

Sales volume went up. Sales income went up. Overtime went down. CSR satisfaction went up. Customer satisfaction went up. The general evaluation was “pity we didn’t do it sooner!”

I hope y’all can get a better contact person, or maybe a water bottle to use on this one… bad customer! Bad! Bad!

Mrs. Gap, who is a wise woman, once told me that sometimes the best customer is one you don’t have. Firing a customer is not a mortal sin.
She never mentioned the cactus thing, but I suspect she would agree.

Sounds like maybe someone needs to start communicating with this cat by phone? I’ve found that a very effective way of ending what I like to call “A Night of 1000 Emails”

First, contact the boss.
If Boss does not rein in idiot:
cc (or bcc) the boss on every damned email - even if you don’t reply to the email, forward it to his boss.

See how boss likes the view.

You didn’t say what position whiny-butt has at his company, but it sounds like you need to arrange for a polite manager to manager or vp to vp conversation about professional and acceptable email communications. Otherwise, I hope you can just tell them that they need to appoint another point of contact or find another vendor.

Since he tends to copy several dept distribution lists on all his emails, I’m assuming that one of our managers will get sick of his crap and call him on the carpet, if they haven’t already. The email where he said “guess I hit a nerve” made me think someone called him. Personally, I am staying totally out of it. I’m just in one of the distro’s that he keeps including.

Nava, that’s very interesting about “paretizing” your customers and seeing those positive results. I’ve always thought that would be the likely result but have never seen any evidence of it. Every place I’ve worked, we’ve had at least one customer that should have been fired, but management is always more focused on making the customers happy. I am too, in general, but it seems common sense to me that there is a vanishing point where your staff spends so much time on one customer that they actually become a hidden expense.

It’s one of the nicest bits of owning my own business. When I’m done with a client, there’s no one over my head telling me I have to put up with them. There are definitely people we are better off without, and we really do see a benefit to the bottom line when you look at total profitability the next year. (Not to mention the mental health benefit).

That is the first thing I would stop. This guy should have one point of contact, period. Internally you can have a backup or two, but he doesn’t need to know that. I would inform the customer that he now has a dedicated contact (or email address)and ALL correspondence will go through that person. He can copy anyone he cares to on his emails, but replies will come from one source. That limits the confusion of who is answering what, allows you complete control over the info that goes back and makes it easier to track the email trail.

Next, determine whether his factual complaints are valid. When he doubts your answer, does he have a point? Are you delivering at the same level as you are to other companies? Only after establishing the answers to those (and other) questions would I consider coping his boss on the email chain. No sense in alerting his boss if there really is an issue on your side. I would, however, copy the appropriate managers at your company on every reply so they can keep tabs on how much trouble this customer is.

Good luck, it’s a real balancing act.

The Doctor has a point. Can you use this customer an an Improvement Plan?

Would it be worthwhile to review and improve your processes based on his … suggestions?

We’ve run into this problem at work. Our management would contact their management. It’s usually not a good thing for someone who is being annoying like that when their management hears about it. We will assign specific people to talk to problem customers. I’ve filled that role a couple of times when it turns out to be some cantankerous old fart causing the problem. In one particularly problematic case our management told the customer we would no longer accept calls from one of their employees. In that kind of case we tell the customer flat out that we will bend over backward to help them if it’s a cooperative relationship, but we won’t pay attention to them if all we hear is noise. I don’t recall a single case where the situation did not get resolved on the customer end.

True that. The first thing our team does when someone is being a shit and/or ‘fishing’ between our team members for different answers is pick a volunteer on our team to be the single point of contact. If A is the contact and schlub emails me, I just throw the email in A’s box (we have a shared mailbox with our own folders in it). If he IMs me, I tell him he needs to address that with A. Or I just ignore it.

But otherwise, as Tripolar says, we do the same. Our manager contacts their manager. We don’t get to do that.

One thing I do with stupid/aggressive emails is answer the question I want to, rather then the one posed.

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