Losing the plot

Many years ago we identified clients' records as one of the most important things in our office. Despite being so reluctant to keep them in the first place, and then to bring them in to us on time, clients do seem to value their books and records.

So we created a simple booking in system and T-card board to track every set of client records, when received, where they are, who is working on them, and then to record the date they were returned to the client, and by whom.

Usually the problem is returning the things. We have shelves of old records too big to post back that clients resolutely refuse to come and collect. We do our best to at least swap them for the new ones the following year, but even that doesn't aways work - "sorry I've got my wife's sports car, they won't fit in", "sorry, I'm on my bike today", etc. In all we probably have over 50 sets of records looking for a home, and a similar number in various stages of progress for 2013.

So it's particularly galling when a client claims they haven't had last year's records back and you can't find them - and you can't find the record card, which suggests it is still attached to the box of records somewhere in the office! It happens about once every three years and wastes an hour of total office productive time before someone finds them tucked away at the back of their desk, or under a box belonging to someone else. (Or tucked away on my shelves - dare I say 'planted' there to get me into trouble!) I'm pleased to say we have never lost any yet, but I am apt to lose it a bit when this happens after all the effort we invested in creating a system designed to avoid this very thing!

So the clock's ticking on a box that seems to have gone missing from last year. The client is adamant he didn't get it back last year, and there's no evidence on our file that he did - so where is it? I need to return it to him when I see him with the 2013 accounts on Thursday. I'm not looking forward to having to turn the office upside down tomorrow! Someone owes us all cream cakes - I just hope it's not me!


Individual Items

Roland195 | | Permalink

I find tracking individual bits & pieces that clients claim not to be able to find therefore you must still have them more of a problem. In a previous life, there was an eyewatering amount of time devoted to "solving" this problem that usually did little more than increase time spent on jobs before pen had been put to paper (so to speak).

I sympathise

Lilac1 | | Permalink

I have spent many times looking for client books and records which have gone missing. Good luck in finding them.

JAADAMS's picture

Similar problem..

JAADAMS | | Permalink

I had a problem when I took over an accountants a few years ago to be met with a room full of clients old papers going back years - no list of names could be found. So I got a student in in the summer hols who made a list of the names. If they were 'live' clients then when they came for their next annual visit we made sure we looked on the list to return any past papers.

Papers for those clients who were still 'live' but were usually serviced remotely had their papers returned by post (you can get some cheap deals where the delivery van comes to you so you dont have to queue at the PO).

Those clients who had died or whose papers were more than the 6 years were automatically shredded.

That left a 'hard core' of papers less than 6 years old but were people who could not be contacted/ no longer clients. Automatic shred = life is too short/serves them right for not asking for the papers back. 

Now clients get their papers back after the annual meeting - we dont keep them - if HMRC want them for an enquiry then its up to the client to bring them in. They are their papers after all.



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