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When is a customer not worth it anymore?

aandabooks

Aluminum
Joined
Oct 24, 2009
Location
Illinois
Have a customer that I helped develop a product for them that is a variant of another product that I already was making. Basically a custom version for the customer to use in conjunction with a product that they make. After anodizing costs and them never ordering enough to fill out a whole anodizing shipment of just their parts and having to supplement I'm only making a few bucks on each piece.

Customer is ridiculously picky. These are rugged use products and they take abuse in the field. Always complaining about some anodizing finish issue or an edge that meets my specs. Sometimes I feel like they are just complaining in an effort to drive down price.

When do I throw my hands up and just tell them that their business is not worth it to me? I do this on the side and am for sure not getting rich with some side machining.
 
Have a customer that I helped develop a product for them that is a variant of another product that I already was making. Basically a custom version for the customer to use in conjunction with a product that they make. After anodizing costs and them never ordering enough to fill out a whole anodizing shipment of just their parts and having to supplement I'm only making a few bucks on each piece.

Customer is ridiculously picky. These are rugged use products and they take abuse in the field. Always complaining about some anodizing finish issue or an edge that meets my specs. Sometimes I feel like they are just complaining in an effort to drive down price.

When do I throw my hands up and just tell them that their business is not worth it to me? I do this on the side and am for sure not getting rich with some side machining.
Work out all associated costs, how much time you spend on it realistically, including things like fielding their complaining phone calls, then see what you actually earn per hour. If you think it's not enough, you will have your answer.
 
After anodizing costs and them never ordering enough to fill out a whole anodizing shipment of just their parts and having to supplement I'm only making a few bucks on each piece.
That's your fault, not theirs.

Customer is ridiculously picky. These are rugged use products and they take abuse in the field. Always complaining about some anodizing finish issue or an edge that meets my specs. Sometimes I feel like they are just complaining in an effort to drive down price.
Tough love time... It sounds like you are not good enough to do their work. You either need to cut them loose as a bad fit for you, or take this as a challenge to meet their requirements AND make money at the same time.
 
Is this a benefit to you because it adds to your batch sizes or brings down your costs on the rest of your parts? If not, encourage them to find another source.
 
It sounds like you need to have a conversation with your customer. I've had a few repeat jobs that after a few tries I'm not really making money on so I've gone to the customer and explained why I'm going to have to re visit pricing for future orders. I try to give them an opportunity to retain pricing (going from 50 off to 100 off for instance) but explain that for the given batch sizes, delivery requirements (or whatever) I need to re-quote in order to maintain profitability. It sounds like you're on the fence with them so if they go looking elsewhere then it's no major loss to you.

If the sole issue is that you're getting a lot of rejects then you can either build this into your price or work out how to make the parts better. I had a job a while ago that I ran in a vice but repeatability wasn't great and I could only get 4 parts per cycle. I made do with the first few batches (didn't know it would repeat first time I got the job) and was tempted to have this conversation myself but decided to give it one more shot and built a small fixture plate using some mitee bite clamps. I managed to massively increase productivity and reduce rejects to virtually zero so I'm now making more money every time the job repeats and the customer is getting a better quality product.

With regards to the parts getting beat up in use, that may be the case but if they're selling direct to the consumer then the part needs to look "premium" to justify them as a supplier of quality products. I make and sell a tool that gets hit with a hammer but I still want it looking absolutely mint so when my customer first takes it out of the packaging they're thinking that the tool is a very nicely made item which (I hope) makes them consider purchasing from me again in the future. If they only get a "meh" feeling when they open the box then there will be no loyalty to my brand.
 
I think it's important to run off annoying customers every once in a while, just to stay in the habit and to remind yourself who is in control of your shop.
We think we know what's best and we make decisions accordingly but our choices are only a single piece of the pie we call outcomes. Keeping or loosing this customer may be one of the most important turning points of your life or it may not matter at all.
I've been up and down several times and I feel like luck and circumstance have played as much, if not more, of a role as hard work and effort.
Getting rid of problematic customers hurts but makes room for better ones or sometimes much worse ones. I guess all I am saying is don't over think it just do what you want, there is no telling what will happen. I'd personally rather be in a hell of my own creation than one someone else made for me.
 
Have a customer that I helped develop a product for them that is a variant of another product that I already was making. Basically a custom version for the customer to use in conjunction with a product that they make. After anodizing costs and them never ordering enough to fill out a whole anodizing shipment of just their parts and having to supplement I'm only making a few bucks on each piece.

Customer is ridiculously picky. These are rugged use products and they take abuse in the field. Always complaining about some anodizing finish issue or an edge that meets my specs. Sometimes I feel like they are just complaining in an effort to drive down price.

When do I throw my hands up and just tell them that their business is not worth it to me? I do this on the side and am for sure not getting rich with some side machining.
When, once you have enough to pay your bills, meantime tolerate the abuse, and keep looking
 
There is a reason I will NOT supply annodized parts. They leave my place "in the white" only.
That is about where I am on this. I have no control over the anodizing process and they only want these in black. Every small imperfection is magnified in black. I get red, blue, green, gold, orange and purple done for my own products and even with the same process for sanding/finishing the black always shows the worst after anodizing.

They want me to supply in the white and they want to look for someone to do cerakote. I've tried to tell them that cerakote is a terrible idea as it will not hold up.
 
My alum parts all git anodized, but most all of them leave here in white - other than my own recoils.
But I have never had, nor heard of anyone having issues with them - other than the one time (back in 2011) when I shipped some parts that I had made out of 2011 material, and I wrote 2011 on every box!

Customer blasted the parts prior to sending to the platers, and did NOT put them back in my boxes.

I git the call "Hey, what are these parts made out of? The anodizer says that they are burning through them!"

I git the fact that the customer may not know what 2011 is, but Shirley the plater would have questioned it if they say it written on every box?

Finally it dawned on me that the year happened to be 2011, and someone ass_u_med that I wrote the year on the boxes for some odd reason...

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Same customer likes to parkerise their own parts in-house, and said that they were having a spot not plate well on many of the parts. I believe that those were larger parts that did not run through our worsher, and I think that there was a puddle of dried coolant (oily spot) on the part, and that they did not doo much of a "strip" process prior to their plate process. After that, I never heard anything again. But I wonder if that could play a roll in the anodize issues?


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I am Ox and I approve this post!
 
That is about where I am on this. I have no control over the anodizing process and they only want these in black. Every small imperfection is magnified in black. I get red, blue, green, gold, orange and purple done for my own products and even with the same process for sanding/finishing the black always shows the worst after anodizing.

They want me to supply in the white and they want to look for someone to do cerakote. I've tried to tell them that cerakote is a terrible idea as it will not hold up.
Agree that cerakote will likely end poorly.
Any chance you could change the finishing process? Are you tumbling them? Any other method available? (since I don't know the actual part, just asking) Maybe do something that might raise the price, make it worth your while, and make them happy. Good luck!
 
The anodizing price is an easy one to fix. $MinCharge ÷ Quantity = Price to anodize. If you just so happen to have something of your own that's going to anodize and gets the same color and you are still under the minimum consider it a fringe benefit to offering to supply the parts anodized.
 
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"Good" is dictated by how tight the customer requirements are. I hit them exactly as requested unless I feel comfortable making a recommendation based on my knowledge of what they actually need.

"Fast" is my standard turnaround time. They want sooner? Expedite fees.

"Cheap" doesn't exist as a priority for me. Price gets calculated out based on my estimation of what the other two are gonna cost me.
 
I've worked in job shop environments for most of my 40-year career in manufacturing, and I have always found it useful to just sit down and have a conversation with the customer(s) when some difficulty arises. Most business people are reasonable and pragmatic, so you owe them an explanation of why the work is not a fit for you. Put yourself in their shoes and live by the golden rule of "do unto others..." They might truly love your work and be shocked when you ask them to leave - otherwise, knock the dust off your shoes and move on to someone else. If they decide to leave, then you will have no doubt in your mind that it was the right decision.

I had to raise a price about 10x for some custom gate hardware - the buyer didn't like it but couldn't find anyone else to do the work. He wound up just passing it on to the end user (who had plenty of money).
 








 
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