April 22, 2019

How do you deal with difficult customers for a SaaS based business

Kyle Tummonds @ktummonds

We are a SaaS based business and are finding that some of our customers are very difficult to deal with in terms of needing help with the platform, and requesting custom development work. Many of these customers are requestion calls with our developers and do not want to follow the protocol for prepaying for the developers time. We do not want to be dealing with these customers, and also do not want to receive bad reviews. Has anyone experienced this type of customer, and have any feedback or tips?

  1. 4

    Raise your prices. If your product is good, you will only shed these needy types who won’t end up sticking around after you build everything they ask for, anyway.

    You will also have more money to reinvest in the product and make it better on your terms. Marc Andreessen is always talking about this.

  2. 2

    Don't be afraid to fire customers.

    Don't be afraid to ask for more money.

    That said, one of my favorite tactics for firing a customer is by charging them enough where I don't feel they are difficult anymore. (Abusive customers get fired regardless.) So you may have to charge these specific customers more than you are planning for development work.

    One of the things I have learned about running a SaaS at scale is you need to factor tough accounts into your pricing for everyone. There will be tough accounts. Sometimes, the customer's data will be janky to import. Sometimes, they will just have a lot of data. Sometimes, they will make heavy use of an afterthought of a feature that doesn't work so well at scale.

    Depending on your current status & plan, it might make sense to listen to these customers first. Are they giving you hints about things that should be in the platform, that other customers might also buy?

    If it's custom development work, keep in mind that in many countries it's not standard protocol to prepay for most kinds of work. Consider that you may be being difficult by asking them to do something that's abnormal. If you need to charge them more to offset the risk of nonpayment, that's totally fair! The key is to be professional about all of this when you communicate with the customer.

    Good luck!

    1. 2

      Thanks for detailed advice! Raising the price seems to be a good way to offset the experience of working with such customers.

  3. 2

    It's a nightmare when different customers want different things. I would like to think that they wouldn't leave/give bad reviews if you are clear to them that custom development is not something you can offer. If they can't accept your terms then I would be tempted to kindly fire them.

    Also Natalie Nagele touches on this topic in the latest IH podcast.

    1. 2

      Thanks for the resource!

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