Breaking Up Is Hard to Do!

Service is not just about what we do with our customers, it is how we act with everyone—including vendors, team members, and partners. There is a way we can always act with integrity, empathy, and a level of refinement, including when canceling a service or contract.

Ding. It’s my e-mail inbox. What could it be? Maybe someone has sent me one of those e-cards? An e-mail from my sister asking what we should do during the week? Perhaps a client who needs a password reset to our Web-bases reporting? No! Of course, it wouldn’t be anything that great! My month had to start with a client cancellation. 

We all love them, right? (I say with a whole lot of sarcasm!)

Even with my hate for account terminations, they happen. Our partnership runs its course, budget issues come into play, or the company changes its goals. What still surprises me after my 12 years of working with Oculus is that only two clients actually have had the integrity to speak to me about their cancellation. Most take the easy road and send a pleasant, yet brief e-mail saying they want to cancel their services. 

What is wrong with this?

Well, since we work with our clients on developing deeper connections with their customers, one would hope that some of those lessons would follow through when dealing with vendors. That said, I have to admit, I have been guilty of the compose, click, and cancel-type of terminations. Not good at all! What type of service-centric person am I?

The latest cancellation hit me personally. I had been working with this particular hotel for 12 to 13 years, and after all that time, they brushed me off with a simple e-mail. Poof! That relationship ended in less than one minute; more than a decade of relationship building amounted to an e-mail that took someone two minutes to write.

It got me thinking: How could we all do better? Service is not just about what we do with our customers, it is how we act with everyone—including vendors, team members, and partners.

There is a way we can always act with integrity, empathy, and a level of refinement, including:

  • Pick up the phone or do it in person.

In today’s busy world, it might be easy to send the termination e-mail. After all, maybe you don’t want to deal with questions about why you are canceling your service. You could be embarrassed to speak with the person. Perhaps fear of someone getting upset?

My advice? You are a big boy, girl, or person, so deal with it!

You spend so much time cultivating relationships with vendors, partners, or team members, so why would you end it without having the integrity of a phone call? Even better, why not take the person for a coffee and break the news?  

Ever get a “Dear John” letter or break-up text message? How does everyone react to those? Not good! Think about it.

  • Tell the person the truth.

Sometimes we get some details about the cancellations, but in other cases, we don’t get any details at all. Let the company know what it could have done to save your business. Maybe even provide it with the opportunity of making changes. We have to tell the truth and let people know how they can improve or adapt. After all, they have been our partner, so wouldn’t you want to know if the shoe was on the other foot?

  • Thank them for their service.

No matter what, let someone know they are appreciated for what they have done. Point out the excellent experiences and show some gratitude, especially if the cancellation is due to uncontrollable budget restrictions. 

Ending relationships of any sort can be awkward and uncomfortable in the best of times, but we have to remember not to burn bridges for the future. You never know when that vendor becomes your customer, and then the tables can turn. Think about it.

Kevin James Saunders is a trainer for Oculus Training, a training and mystery shopping company offering sensitivity, sales, and customer service training programs around the world. For more information, call 888.OCULUS4 or visit You also can connect with Oculus on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @oculustraining or reach out via e-mail at


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