The 5 Customer Parasites That Will Cripple Your Business

Photo Credit: Gilles San Martin via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Gilles San Martin via Compfight cc

by Andrew McDermott


Your co-workers are depressed.
Morale is low.

Everyone’s missing deadlines. Work isn’t getting done.

People can’t seem to get along.
Everyone’s unhappy, bitter even.

Work reeks of tension.
When you started you were excited, optimistic.

Now the thought of coming in fills you with dread.
It’s taken the joy out of what you’re doing.

It? Don’t we mean ‘they’?

When we go through this kind of suffering it’s easy to focus our attention on our business. On our co-workers. Our teammates.

But it’s rare for us to take a closer look at our customers. Most of us have remnants of the belief “the customer is always right” floating around in our heads.

They may be right about what they want

But that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Some customers come to you with a genuine need, a problem they want you to solve. These customers are easy to recognize and wonderful to have. They’re the kind of customers you need to build a successful business.

Then there’s your ‘other’ customers.

The parasites.

These customers do what any parasite does. They attach themselves to you and they feed off your business. They suck your business dry, draining your time, money, resources and morale.

What makes these customer parasites so dangerous is the fact that most businesses aren’t even aware they’ve been infected. Because customer parasites thrive on ignorance. It gives them the power and control they need to do their damage, take what they can and quickly move on.

You need the power of awareness.

If you plan on recognizing these customers for what they are, you’ll need to become aware. Your power comes from education. You’ll need to be able to recognize, understand and anticipate each parasite you encounter. They go about things in different ways but their goal remains the same.

They take.

Your goal: Spotting the parasites.

There are 5 distinct types of parasites. While their overall goal is the same (take from you), their approach and the things they want specifically are often very different. This is important because each type focuses their attention on attacking specific areas of your business.

  • The Arranger tries to arrange deals, circumstances and events so things always seem to be win/lose in their favor. When arrangers send you their terms or agreements, they need to be inspected carefully, meticulously – so you don’t get burned. Anything they ask for needs to be scrutinized.
  • The Schemer wants loopholes. They look for ways over, under, around or through your policies. They’re looking for a way to game the system, your system. They’ll look for ways to take what they want from you without giving anything in return. The schemer wants to beat you and take whatís yours.
  • The Slanderer uses guilt and shame to control you. They talk about how you’ve let them down. They’ll call you names, badger your staff, or provoke you in an effort to get you to lose your cool. At that point, they have the justification they need to renege on a promise or commitment they’ve made.
  • The Disrupter is controlling. They’re the type of customer that gives your employees assignments. They demand to be the exception to the rule and expect to be in control. They throw tantrums when they don’t get their way and they use it to control those that work with them. Instead of following the plan you have for their business, they arrive with orders and plans of their own that they expect you to follow.
  • The Corruptor is consistently dishonest. They’ll say or do anything they can to get what they want. They’ll lie to your face or encourage you to lie for them. They’ll get your hands dirty and set you up to take the fall for their bad behavior. They’re constantly working to erode your morals and your values.

What’s worse, a single customer can display more than one type of parasitic behavior, sort of like a super parasite.

You’re aware of customer parasites, how are you supposed to stop them?

With clear and specific boundaries.

Preventing customer parasites requires that you establish clear boundaries. What are you willing to give?

Let’s say you offer a 60 day money back guarantee and a Slanderer or Disruptor shows up on day 89 demanding a full refund. How are you gonna handle that? Will your team handle things the same way?

How will you deal with the Arranger that tries to edit the terms of your agreement or demand extras after the sale?

Figuring out the do’s and don’ts ahead of time gives your business the protection it needs when you’re ambushed by these parasites. Strong boundaries draw a line in the sand, showing you where everyone stands.

If you’ve stated your refund policy clearly and upfront, it’s easy to identify the parasite that shows up demanding that you change the rules for them.

What if most of your customers behave this way from time to time?

You’re looking for behavioral trends, not one-off outbursts or rare instances of bad behavior. We all have our bad days. That’s not what we’re talking about here. For customer parasites, this sort of behavior is a way of life for them; it’s how they get things done.

Because customer parasites are joy stealers.

They bring tension, misery and bitterness with them wherever they go. Creating boundaries enables you to take back the joy, happiness and excitement you started with.

What about you? I’d love to hear your story. How’d you deal with your customer parasites?


Andrew McDermottAndrew McDermott is the co-founder of His Free 5 day mini course shows entrepreneurs how to fix website failure and attract customers automatically.

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