In the classic Hasbro board game Hungry Hippos, each players whacks a lever which causes his/her Hippo to try and eat the most marbles.

Every business is full of Hungry Hippos and we insist on continuing to feed them marbles. It’s surprising to many to learn that even profitable customers aren’t always customers worth keeping, and that’s because they’re Hungry Hippos. While they may be considered “loyal” from a repeat-visit/purchase standpoint, they’re also always intent on sucking you dry to ensure they get their “money’s worth.”

Some customers cost considerably more to serve than others through things like excessive service requests, product consumption & usage, and more. This means that your currently less profitable customers might actually be more profitable in the long run!

Consider the following:

  • The retail customer who buys an outfit, wears it, and then returns it (it happens all the time).
  • The e-book purchaser who reads the book within a day or two, and then requests a refund.
  • The restaurant customer who takes “unlimited refills” to an obscene level.
  • The Hotel guest always looking for the next freebie!
  • The web services customer who abuses “unlimited” with excessive usage.
  • The subscriber who calls to try and renegotiate a better contract rate, every time.
  • The customer who returns everything at least once!

  • Each and every day, organizations pander to the Hungry Hippos. But why? The problem, is that those Hippos are served at a great expense to your organization. We need to determine who are Hippos are and then decide the best way to deal with them. Sometimes it means firing the customers, other times it means introducing new pricing specifically for your Hippos.

    Every business has them. The first step is stop feeding them. This is one game you don’t want to play.

    I’ll show you other ways to deal with Hungry Hippos in the coming weeks. For now, you at least know what to call them. Don’t lose your marbles!