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Polite way of making grumpy clients leave

(how) do you do it?

- Some clients are delighted when you do basic tasks they pay you for.
- Most clients aren't blown away, but work with you and accept the service is reasonable for the price.
- However, there are always some who will continually grumble and moan regardless of how much you bend over backwards, and despite the fact you've done nothing wrong.

To an extent it's par for the course, can't please all the people all the time. But at extremes, and assuming you believe their complaints are ridiculous, you may want rid of them.

How do you (politely!) deal with these clients?

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By Mr_awol
10th Aug 2018 11:13

We have sacked a few recently, and priced others away. A couple we tried to price away and they are still here, which at least means that we get a decent fee for putting up with them.

That said, I am a little wary about pricing people away as im conscious of getting a reputation as 'expensive'. We get so much of our new business from referrals that it would be foolish to jeopardise that.

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By Slim
10th Aug 2018 11:15

increase fees

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By Maslins
10th Aug 2018 11:29

Hmmm, tricky, especially for those accountants who have clearly visible fixed fees, as this makes the "charge them more" response very hard to justify.

Presumably you've tried to address their concerns as best you can and this hasn't improved things? If so, perhaps just suggest you understand they're not happy with your firm, and may well be happier elsewhere (even if you're confident they won't be!).

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10th Aug 2018 11:31

Next meeting, when they're mumping and moaning, just stop what you are doing and stare at them. Nothing else, don't respond, just stare.

Eventually they are going to be freaked out to the extent they get up and leave, and are unlikely to return. And you don't even have to say anything rude to them.

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By Mr_awol
to Lone_Wolf
10th Aug 2018 13:05

I like it.

Or turn up to a meeting at their offices looking dishevelled, clutching a bottle of whiskey. Maybe have one shoe off. Sit down and ask them what they're doing in your living room.

(apologies to any members north of the border who already take this approach as a matter of course).

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By Tornado
10th Aug 2018 13:17

I can put up with a high level of grumpiness if I am paid enough. One advantage of not working on fixed fees.

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10th Aug 2018 14:15

"It is obvious we cannot work together so regretfully I must discontinue offering you my services"
"So f*** Off !

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By Locutus
10th Aug 2018 14:36

Over the years, I have had a handful of such clients. I have just been frank and told them any (or a combination) of the following: -

1. It is not working out as well as I had hoped and it is probably best to part company on good(ish?) terms; or
2. I am not a specialist in their line of business and due to their growth they really do need a specialist now; or
3. I have simply become too expensive for their needs and they can be more economically served elsewhere.

I find the grumbling stops (or reduces) or they take the hint and leave.

Failing that, if they don't improve then you simply have to "sack" them.

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to Locutus
12th Aug 2018 20:33

Similar here, pricing a client out is dishonest and I’ve always found direct bluntness to work well, eg “it’s Clear you are not happy with how we work/what we do and I’m not happy to continue on that basis, so can you find another accountant/mug?”

There are some people who just moan at everything, so it’s not personal to you, and I’ve found a few of those have done a 180 when I suggested they go and have become good as gold.

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to Locutus
12th Aug 2018 20:33

Similar here, pricing a client out is dishonest and I’ve always found direct bluntness to work well, eg “it’s Clear you are not happy with how we work/what we do and I’m not happy to continue on that basis, so can you find another accountant/mug?”

There are some people who just moan at everything, so it’s not personal to you, and I’ve found a few of those have done a 180 when I suggested they go and have become good as gold.

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10th Aug 2018 17:34

It is depressing having to keep on countering ludicrous claims, as you say. I have a candidate for a boot in the backside as I write.
When and if I get the accounts completed I will be absolutely frank about it not working out for me and how we need to part. Many of these pita's have something else going on in the background that affects their attitude, or a permanent chip on the shoulder. I'm just not powerful enough to overcome that stuff on their behalf.
I've got enough chips on my own shoulder after all.

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10th Aug 2018 17:40

.

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11th Aug 2018 07:01

At a previous firm it was suggested to dump troublesome clients with the lie:

“we’ve identified a potential conflict of interest and must cease to act”

If the client response is “what potential conflict of interest?”...

...“Because it may be a conflict of interest, we cannot inform you what it is”

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11th Aug 2018 14:47

"I have noted your complaint. Let me know when you've made other arrangements and I'll forward your stuff."

I've tried this with Mrs Lion but she's still here.

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By marks
11th Aug 2018 21:02

If you dont want increase the fee to a level that they leave/that you are happy to put up with them for, then I would just say to them that their business doesnt meet the type of client that you want to work in the future (come of with something that they do that you could use as a reason eg not cloud based, not in a certain business sector, not of a certain size of turnover, etc) and that you wont be able to act for them going forward and then give them a couple of other accountants locally who they might want to approach for them to engage with.

Failing that I would just say that you only work with clients who you enjoy working with and who value your services. Say that you arent enjoying working with them any more and you feel that they dont value what you do for them and that life is too short to work with clients that you dont enjoy working with.

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to marks
12th Aug 2018 13:01

Your last paragraph had it in a nutshell. It's polite but honest. People need to know their behaviour isn't acceptable even on the way out.

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By SXGuy
12th Aug 2018 16:53

Recent client "Im not sure I can justify the cost anymore, think I may do it all myself next year, but I'm sure you'll be around to give me some pointers if I get stuck"

No, sorry, I won't be. But I'll gladly send you a letter next April incase you change your mind. Bye bye..

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