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How to reduce the amount of client email?

Reduce email

Is anyone else like me in that there is a never ending flow of client emails, it just seems to be exponentially growing in that the more I reply the more queries and questions come back. I'm considering putting an out of automatic reply that if their questions are outside of the normal terms of engagement then they'll have to make an appointment and charge them a fee or redirect them to other members of staff. 

Ultimately this is my own fault as I've inadvertantly created this expectation, the question is how do I change the behaviour after the fact.

I expect that there will be some collateral damage but I think this is a price that will have to be paid.

Has anyone else gone through a similar experience?

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By Maslins
08th Mar 2019 16:30

I think it's a normal drift of accountancy work over the last decade or two.

We're no longer people who get sent a load of stuff once a year, deal with it, then send it back.

We're now typically people with access to live data. Clients expectations have increased, but the technology has made it easier to meet them.

If you have a few specific clients that ask question after question after question, maybe you need to consider getting rid or increasing prices. If it's happening across the lion's share of your clients, I personally feel it's just the way the industry is going.

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By Tickers
to Maslins
08th Mar 2019 17:18

It's both, email has become so ubiquitous that we use it as a form of text message and then there are clients who regularly push the boundaries.

I think tech has made accessibility to your accountant easier and has reduced prices for clients but are clients receiving a better service? In my case I get so inundated with emails, text messages and monthly reporting that sometimes I don't even know where to start! I worked in a firm 10 years ago and I remember telling a colleague who was a bookkeeper that I had emailed her and she repled "Email? I never open my email!" I can't imagine that is the case today.

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08th Mar 2019 18:26

I suggest letting more time pass before responding, it might help change the client's expectation of an instant response.
What about setting up a shared email account which staff can access, to respond to the simpler queries? That helped my practice.

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By marks
08th Mar 2019 23:39

You have to set boundaries and expectations.

Dont reply to email until 1 day or even 2 days after you receive them. Could of course reply when you receive but that would set expectation that you could reply to emails straight away and then when you dont would receive email that says "did you receive my email this morning" or even a phone call following it up.

Segment you clients into top 20% paying, then next 20% and so on so you have 5 sections. Call them your A-E grade clients. A Grade clients are your elite clients; who get the premium service and get email returned same working day. E Grade clients are your dross clients. They get replied to at best after 5 days. If they moan then say they arent paying for premium response service and if they wish they can upgrade for £x per month.

For all clients you should give them an option of unlimited or face usage emails (up to you to determine what fair usage is. Maybe 1 every couple of months???). If they exceed that that move them to unlimited email option which is a paid for service.

Outsource your inbox to a staff member. Get them to review emails and either; delete as not important, get a member of your team to deal with or forward to you as you can only deal with. This should only be less than 10 emails per week that only you can deal with.

Dont have email server open and only open twice a day (11.30am to 12pm and then 4.30pm to 5pm) and only deal with emails in that 1 hour window.

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By Tickers
to marks
08th Apr 2019 15:58

I like the idea of outsourcing the inbox but dp upi show replies as coming from you directly or do the replies come from your admin or PA email account?

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09th Mar 2019 09:27

This all relates to a question I posed recently about exactly what free time our fees are supposed to cover.
I encourage people to contact me, but rarely get lots of emails from them. I would describe the bulk of my clients as A*.
The one I complained of recently bombarded me on a monthly basis with all sorts of tax queries. He has turned out to be quite reasonable now we've had a chat and I've explained the fees just don't cover this time, and has accepted that I will give him an upfront quote if he wants any more of this advice, which suddenly he feels he can do without.
I'm also including a phrase in my quotes/letters of engagements from now on about fair use of free advice time etc, as recommended by an Awebber, to give serial emailers fair warning.
However, most of my clients are startups, so get lots of advice and training at the beginning, so that they shouldn't need lots of supplementary advice after that. The people I need to quote more for in future generally have come from other accountants running a poor service with no correction of bookkeeping or advice. Assumptions and therefore confusion have built up in the client's mind but it's difficult to know what they do and don't know.

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09th Mar 2019 13:51

'This is important but too complicated for an email exchange. Can I suggest we set up a meeting to discuss? Do take the opportunity to raise other matters you may have in order to make the consultation best value for money.'

That will sort out the wheat from the chaff.

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