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demanding clients

How to deal with them at this time

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Lossing the will to live with a few clients at the moment, records have been in for year end work for only a few weeks and they are already pesting for accounts and tax returns

I've explained that things are taking longer at the moment due to time spent in CJRS claims, other help and support for clients, difficulty in getting to speak to HMRC for some checks, plus the fact that we are homeschooling our kids at the same time which is a massive distraction

we are only human, but some seem oblivious to that

how are others coping

Replies (26)

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By michaelbeaver
30th Jun 2020 11:24

Barely.

I've just had one client, who is normally lovely, tell me to my face that he thinks he's now overpaying for our service, given that he doesn't have much money coming in, and 'everything is on sage and nicely done so it should be a doddle so why has it taken 4 weeks?'. Ignoring the furlough requests we have been making for his 6 staff, processing the payroll on time, and that I answered an edge case VAT query for him last week, and showed him an article that explained it, and I translated the tax part into easy to understand English for him. He said that wasn't proper advice as he found the same article on google.

Of course, we have other clients, the logistics of having not many staff in the office make work slower, and many of our clients have needed our help navigating the various schemes on offer. They forget that - or don't appreciate it, or just don't care.

I have to say that I got a bit snappy with him, and told him that if he could get better service elsewhere for a cheaper price, then he's welcome to move on - but I would not accept his criticism. I understand he's coming from a position of stress and frustration. Patience with clients who are doing it rough is a necessity, but you shouldn't bite the hand that feeds, right?

I don't have any advice. I just felt like ranting, as well.

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By Tim Vane
30th Jun 2020 11:37

What you call "demanding clients", we would just call "clients". "A few weeks" is surely plenty of time to complete end of year, but it may be that you need to employ more staff if you are struggling to cope. This is not the time to be under-delivering to clients or you will end up losing them. We've picked up a few recently from firms that just cannot service their clients properly when things get a little sticky.

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Replying to Tim Vane:
Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
30th Jun 2020 11:53

Tim, It may just be me but your final sentence does make me think about livestock farming and it is not a pleasant thought.

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By Paul Crowley
30th Jun 2020 11:37

Everyone in the same position
Good clients will accept
Maybe time to consider the 5% that take up disproportionate time and consider we are just dancing monkeys

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
30th Jun 2020 12:12

We have really pushed on this past 4-6 weeks to catch up which has taken a lot out of myself and my assistant but we are back to "around normal" on delivery of turnarounds, and looking to maintain that for the next month before taking some time off in August, albeit not as much as we normally do with holidays etc being a bit of a write off this year. Our work is paced to there is a natural lull in late July/ early August before winding up into the second half of the SA season for Sept-Nov.

Its been a very tough time, but we have tried to maintain general service levels but queue up "production line" as we do in Jan. Most client seems OK with a 4-6 turnaround rather than our normal 2-3, but we are down to under 4 weeks now, and should be into 3 week territory shorty

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By Mr_awol
30th Jun 2020 12:20

What have you done to mitigate the expectation gap.

I am telling clients as and when they contact me about bringing in, sending over, or overwise providing their records that we are a little behind - let me know if its urgent and I will prioritise them. Most have said they don't care, any time in the next month or two.

Are you a small practice, one/two man band, etc? If so, then to an extent you have to hope people appreciate that. At the end of the day if clients want to save money by paying a sole practitioner working from his living room less than they would pay a larger practice with staff, premises, etc, then they should accept that this might sometimes lead to inconsistency of turnaround time, depending on the accountant's workload.

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By adam.arca
30th Jun 2020 12:55

Agree with Mr_awol and disagree with Tim.

At the end of the day, clients pays their money and takes their chances.

If they want to pay what sounds like top whack but have the guarantee of service at a firm which sounds like it must be over-staffed in normal times, then that's a valid choice.

But if they want a competitive price, they also have to realise that comes with compromises and that's just as much a valid choice.

The difficulty comes with the selfish clients who want best price with top service. They need to be reminded they can only have 2 out of the 3 (quality, speed, price) and that quality must come as a given, so it's either speed or price but not both.

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Replying to adam.arca:
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By Mr_awol
30th Jun 2020 15:34

adam.arca wrote:

The difficulty comes with the selfish clients who want best price with top service. They need to be reminded they can only have 2 out of the 3 (quality, speed, price) and that quality must come as a given, so it's either speed or price but not both.

Or, potentially, with the accountants who don't have the resources/overheads to cover the hectic periods but still charge fees in keeping with those that do. It's fine all the time they are providing the same (they might argue better/more personal etc) service but if they are charging top whack and over-earning off the back of it then they should accept that payback comes when things get hectic.

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Replying to Mr_awol:
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By adam.arca
30th Jun 2020 15:45

Indeed, totally agree. I was implicitly putting accountants who act professionally into 2 quadrants: you're either expensive but quick (like Tim) or less expensive and slightly less quick (which I'm completely unashamed to say is where I try to be).

If you're in one of the other two, you're either being a fool to yourself or you're playing a risky game by milking your market.

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Replying to adam.arca:
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By Paul Crowley
30th Jun 2020 15:53

Based on what fees I see when taking on new clients I am in same camp, usually taking over from someone in one of the other two

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Oaklea
By Chris.Mann
30th Jun 2020 14:12

I think if you communicate with your client's and are open with them, in the main, they will usually work with you. If there's a particular call for a faster turnaround then, in those cases, I'm sure the need could be accommodated. In the end, it's a two way street, with some give and take, across the board.

It takes all sorts to make the world and some of our fellow professionals seem to live in the cold, stark world of Utopia. Well, there you go.

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By Southwestbeancounter
30th Jun 2020 15:04

I feel your pain!

I was always at everyone's beck and call 24/7 and recently (as I've been diagnosed with stress-induced asthma and anxiety because of my work life!) I have stopped answering emails immediately, have 'fielded' phone calls and do not check my emails evenings and weekends (that was the hardest bit!).

To start with some were sending emails twice saying that they weren't sure I got the first one (as I usually answer immediately) and once I told them I wasn't feeling 100% they fully understood, I got loads of messages of support and even flowers!

I think as others have said - communication is the absolute key - I am telling clients that we are logging everything on a chronological (FIFO) basis, unless it's particularly time critical, and will get on to their job when time permits as we are kept busy with CJRS and SEISS claims etc. If they ask for an estimate of when it will be done, if I think 4 weeks then I will say 6 and that way there is some leeway built in and they are happy if their job is finished 'early'. If they don't like it then they can go elsewhere but no-one has moaned whatsoever so far!

Good luck and remember your health and sanity is far more important than ANY client's accounts!

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Replying to Southwestbeancounter:
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By John Wheeley
03rd Jul 2020 09:47

Thank you, that is very good advice, especially about phone calls. The ansafone is a useful tool for managing your time efficiently and in a stress free manner.

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Replying to Southwestbeancounter:
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By Ammie
03rd Jul 2020 10:20

Ditto. Thank you.

Saved me much typing.

I have always said if you are good at what you do, from whatever walk of life, you will always have the work. Clients who persistently huff and puff can find a more appropriate adviser. My sanity does not need pushing.

I have also said, on this platform, that with the transitioning system, MTD and all that, many accountants will pack their bags and there will be a glutton of clients out there, some of which will struggle to appoint anyone because of their credibility.

I work the way I do and provide a valued service. The longevity of my clients is testimony.

Work life balance is priority, not pushing out a set of accounts and tax return a week quicker.

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Replying to Ammie:
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By Southwestbeancounter
03rd Jul 2020 14:03

You're dead right Ammie especially about the about being good at what you do bit!

If clients don't like the way we work then they can go elsewhere as we have more clients than we need to be honest.

We decided to do the clients' payroll in the normal way, send out our usual quarterly bills and as a gesture of goodwill just charge a nominal £50 extra to each client for all the furlough claims as we felt it was the right thing to do in the circumstances - we have had clients pay by return, not take their prompt payment discount and question the bill as they knew what work we put into it and they felt it was far too low! That's the sort of clients we like - decent, appreciative types and luckily the vast majority are like that these days as I have had 30+ years to sort the wheat out from the chaff!!

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By Open all hours
30th Jun 2020 20:16

Think our small team was made for this occasion.
Client relations better than ever. Work more up to date and turnarounds quicker than they’ve been since 2001. Clients more appreciative, fees paid faster. Weekly client emails have been more frequent and even daily when it mattered.
Positive attitude in the office (which never closed). Long hours, yes, worked at least 3 hours every day since mid March. Earliest text, 3.30am, latest client contact 10.35pm but we came into this game to be busy, no complaints from us, plenty of compliments paid to us. We are lucky and we’ll work hard to stay lucky.

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7om
By Tom 7000
03rd Jul 2020 09:52

choose 2 of the following please, you cant have all 3 - thats all you need to remember

1. Fast
2. Good
3. Cheaper.

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Replying to Tom 7000:
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By qadri23
03rd Jul 2020 10:22

You hit the nail on the head!

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Replying to Tom 7000:
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By qadri23
03rd Jul 2020 10:22

You hit the nail on the head!

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By meadowsaw227
03rd Jul 2020 09:52

Same here, all the clients I want to keep are extremely happy with our service.
The others and anyone not happy with our fees are more than welcome to look elsewhere.
I might add that I treat all clients the same, it is just some are more trouble/needy than others.

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By spike418
03rd Jul 2020 10:16

I cleared out my 5% disproportionate time consuming clients a year or so back and have never regretted it. Ok I'm a sole trader working from home with no kids, but on the other side I have no pressing need to increase my client base. Clients have been getting books in earlier and I've mostly processed them immediately, some have even suggested I put aside till later if the virus is impacting on the workload! Tbh I currently have a better cash flow than ever with plenty of work mapped out until February. I'm trying not to feel smug because I know there's a lot of luck involved ;)

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By JD
03rd Jul 2020 10:22

I think it is fair to say that most of us are in the same boat. There will always be a few clients that are a challenge and do not take the time to understand that you and your team are doing your best to balance the increase in workload with a reduced team (because of childcare/home working).

A bit of expectation management is needed perhaps, using a standard email advising of time frame and requesting the things they always forget (mortgage statements/stock figures etc). However one of the best things I have done is take the scissors to the phone line. It has saved hours, I talk to clients when I needed to and we are now not too far behind where we need to be.

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By johnjenkins
03rd Jul 2020 10:33

I specialise in the construction industry so these last 3 months have been really busy. Very much like December and January. So it will leave me with August to have a great break (once quarantine has been lifted to where we want to go). I have heard that prices in Turkey are through the roof. Back to the plot. It's our job to install confidence and stability to our clients. We are not glorified bookkeepers (no disrespect to bookkeepers). We are Accountants. You don't hear the nurses and Doctors on the front line moaning about their extra hours. We have got it easy compared to some. So let's just get on with it and reap the benefit of our clients thanking us for the help they have received over this period. Because believe me it will happen again early next year.

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By pauljohnston
03rd Jul 2020 11:24

@Southwestbeancounter

Turn on your out of office function on your email and insert something like the following

Just to let you know I received your email. I will get back to you as soon as I can Thank you

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Replying to pauljohnston:
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By Southwestbeancounter
03rd Jul 2020 13:52

Hi Paul

Yes I could do that but I clear urgent emails the same day and all other emails at least by the end of the week and clients are starting to get used to that now. Let's face it, that's a far better service than they are going to get from anyone else they email on a regular basis, I'm sure!

Weekends are now out of bounds as far as I am concerned - well until November/December time when we start working 6/7 days a week that is, but you never know, maybe 2020 will be different?!

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@enanen
By enanen
03rd Jul 2020 11:47

Some clients have too much time on their hands and are dreaming up s**t and emailing you asking your opinion about some wild fantastical idea. They need to get back to their day jobs. We have become direct in responses of late.

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