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When It’s Time to Fire Your CustomerOctober - 2015


On CX Day 2015, there is much talk about creating strong customer experiences.  This is critical to brand longevity. However, what about when a customer creates a bad experience for your company or your employees?

Is the customer always right?  

When is it ok to “fire” a customer?


Our CEO, Brian Walker, explores our own experience.

“Son, let me tell you an old saying: The customer is always right” echoed the CEO of one of AE Marketing Group’s national brands.

Still in our company’s start-up phase, I was faced with a tough dilemma. “I’m sorry, but I just don’t see it the same way,” I replied. And with that, I made the decision to end 31 straight months of 100% customer retention.

Why did I make the decision to fire this customer?

1. They compromised our values for authentic work – “My son reviewed the campaign you spent six weeks on and although he’s not a marketer, he loves Warby Parker. Maybe we can be like them?” Sorry, we don’t copy others’ work.

2. They destroyed staff morale by constantly telling us who we weren’t – “We should have gone to a big ad agency, they’d do this for us without question.” Sorry, we aren’t order takers.

3. They didn’t respect our Scope of Work – “I know we are ready to launch, but have you seen this brand in the UK? That’s what we want now.” Sorry, we can’t work for free.

When I converted a walk-in-closet into my first office to start AE, I promised myself we would be a new kind of brand agency.

Leaving this customer’s big money (including potential equity) on the table was one of the scariest and most liberating experiences yet in our journey.

To me, the best personal or business relationships require open communication, trust and mutual respect. Perhaps naïve, but I am committed to that belief and am passionate about our customers who share it.

Work consumes more time in life than almost anything else (except maybe sleeping) so you better feel good about what you do and the customers you work with…even if that means making tough decisions.

Brian Walker is the Founder and CEO of AE Marketing Group 

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