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Demanding Clients

I know it's our busiest time of year and maybe that's making me a bit more sensitive than normal, but I can't help feeling that clients are becoming more & more demanding.

For example, a client who phoned this morning was told by my assistant that I was in meetings until 4pm, but assured them that I would call back after 4pm.  They tried my mobile twice before 4pm and then called the office again at 4.15 irate becasue they had tried to get hold of me "several times".  Thing is, they were third on my call back list when i started making them at 4pm and I'd only got to number 2!!

Then had a calls from two clients with December year ends asking why their accounts weren't done as they had seen houses to buy and the mortgage brokers needed the figures NOW.

It seems to have gone crazy just at the moment, or is it just me?

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Twas ever thus !!

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Client sent me his records yesterday

And "very reasonably(!!)" said he knew I may not be able to get it filed on time.

 

My deadline for sending in records and guaranteeing I would be able to file on time  was 31 Oct.

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Yep - they are!

I worked New Year Day because a client with 30 September 2011 year end nagged me so much about getting his accounts done that I ended up doing them just to get the client off my back. Even now I get mad at myself for doing it when there are so many more urgent jobs to be done. So far this month two clients have decided to move house and one decided to buy new business premises and all wanted management accounts at the drop of a hat. 

The worst thing is when lenders insist on having the "agreed" figures from HMRC and insist that they cannot accept copies of the submitted tax returns and computations.  Do they not realise that these are not issued as a matter of course these days? 

Oh - and there's the client who dropped his books off on 12 January and told my assistant that he was going away the following Monday and could he have his figures before he went!!!!

There is a lot of pressure this time of the year and of course every client thinks they are the only ones we have to deal with, but as 31 January draws closer and I am seeing the mountain we still have to climb before we get there I am beginning to wonder if it is all really worth it.  I will probably feel much better about it in February after it has all died down, but this year has felt much more pressured than any other I can remember.

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The season of the busy fool

I've been there and bought the T shirt, but won't do it again.  I've just had a lovely Christmas/New Year, just pottering about the office for an hour here and there just to keep the post opened and emails answered.  Now I'm in January, I've literally no accounts/returns to do.  I've already done most of the 31/12 year ends.  

I made the conscious decision about 5 years ago not to be bullied, lied to, or taken advantage of by clients, and have ditched a few dozen clients since then, and put up the fees of all the rest substantially.  I now have the same GRF and profit as 5 years ago (well actually a little bit more towards inflation), and have started to love my job again.  My clients get a top notch personal service but have to pay a proper fee for the privilage.  Most decent clients agree with this and have come along with me under the new regime.

It's been an easy decision to make because I'm a one man practice and have a relatively frugal lifestyle, so no mega mortgage or Porsche to fund.  But, I'm still signing on new clients but only the right ones who are willing to pay a reasonable fee for a professional - the first signs of haggling or whinging over price and they're history.

Out of about 70 or so business clients, I've only a handful with accounts due - some December, and some Oct/Nov.   As for 10/11 SA returns, I'd had most of them submitted by last Autumn and have been working on the remainder in Nov and Dec.  I only have a couple unsubmitted but they were prepared weeks ago and just waiting for client signature.  

I've spent January doing pre year end tax planning and will be spending February preparing 11/12 year end accounts and SA info request letters which will be emailed/posted out on 6 April, together with fee quotes and a timetable for info to be supplied to me.

It was a long and hard battle to turn from a haphazard crazy lifestyle of chasing my tail, stress, never being on top, etc., to being fully in control and driving the clients' every move, but it's been more than worth it.  I'd recommend it to everyone.  I've also just achieved an average GRF of £1,000 per client, compared with just £500 five years ago, so ended up with half the number of clients but virtually the same GRF.  

As for demanding clients, all clients get the same treatment which is how I expect to be treated.  I can do a set of year end accounts within a week or two of the year end IF the client has been using my online system properly and answers my year end questionnaire prompty.  So no real difference if they need the accounts urgently, because they'll get them within days of providing me with all info.  My job progress statistics for 2011 showed that all tax returns and accounts were done within 5-10 working days excluding days where I'm waiting for info from the client (i.e. the clock stops/starts according to me being able to progress).  

Sorry, but I don't see how any professional can justify taking several weeks or months to do their job blaming pressure or work and other clients ahead in the queue.  That's just down to bad workload planning.  I know, I've been there - it doesn't have to be that way!

 

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