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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 (13)

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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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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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