Washing Your Hands of Difficult Subscribers


We have always been proud of our level of customer service; however, we have a handful of contracted customers that we have finally classified as mentally unstable — those we will never be able to satisfy. They are draining to our entire staff in terms of time trying to calm volatile and unreasonable behavior. This goes way beyond an unhappy customer. If we have decided enough is enough, what are the best steps to exit out of this business relationship to protect the company?


Most inquiries are about retaining subscribers or going after those that default on their performance commitment. But every alarm company can probably point to a few subscribers they wouldn’t mind losing. If you are the one initiating the early termination, you should be sure that you have appropriate basis, and that you follow the procedures you have in your contract. Your contract should not have a provision that permits you to terminate at will because that right may also apply to the subscriber, a result you did not intend.

There are a number of ways to encourage early termination. Ignoring your subscriber or poor performance on your part are not acceptable ways. You could exercise your right to increase charges. Even though the Standard Form Contracts permit up to 9% increase per year, and the subscriber is required to accept that increase, you could offer the subscriber the option of terminating rather than paying the increase.

You could start reading your contract more closely to see precisely what rights you have to terminate and what provisions you can start enforcing with more regularity. For example, you might be covering service calls that are not really covered. You might not be charging for excessive and unnecessary alarms. You may not tolerate late payments.

It would probably be easier to terminate with a subscriber if you can explain why you cannot longer provide your service, and perhaps suggest someone else to provide that service.

It also makes sense for you to try and sell your difficult accounts; those that pay but for some reason have rubbed you the wrong way.

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About the Author


Security Sales & Integration’s “Legal Briefing” columnist Ken Kirschenbaum has been a recognized counsel to the alarm industry for 35 years and is principal of Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum, P.C. His team of attorneys, which includes daughter Jennifer, specialize in transactional, defense litigation, regulatory compliance and collection matters.

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