Would you fire a customer? Yes, FIRE A CUSTOMER. Especially in this economic climate?
Well this is one lesson I'm rapidly learning. As Seth says, 1% of your customers can cause 95% of your pain - and it's very very true.
A month or two ago I had a customer who was on my back every 5 minutes. Quite literally. She would phone over weekends, late at night, early in the morning, demanding things she actually couldn't get. So I fired her. Told her I would come take away the service and she could look elsewhere. Funny thing is, that turned her into a model customer. We sorted out our differences, I made a final last-ditch effort to placate her (and she knew it was my last effort), she got to see what it takes to do so - and now things are ticking over - no more odd-hours calls. She's become a customer evangelist instead.
There's another customer who fired herself. While I was busy solving a large sabotage-related problem, she took herself off to another service provider - but this one was not amicably done. Without going into too much detail, let me just say we agreed to disagree and part paths.
Now I've come to the stage where I may need to fire another customer. One that complains endlessly in spite of recieving the best service possible. No matter what is done, there's always some other problem. Trying to explain leads to brash brush-offs and simply not being willing to listen on their part.
The thing is this - it's VERY hard to fire a customer, especially a big one if you're a small business and times are tough. Many business simply put up with the 1%, spend all their time running around trying to please them, and end up not putting the effort into the rest of the customer base that they should. The 1% ruin the experience for everyone else. It's not that you want to avoid them or not help them, but simply that they drain all your resources, energy and focus - and keep you mired to one place instead of moving forward.
If you look at it like that, where would you want to aim your time and attention? On providing fantastic service for as many people as possible, or playing catch-up with those who are never happy?
Tough lesson, hard situation, but sometimes it's simply what has to be done.