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Unresponsive new client

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New client has continually ignored phone messages and emails. I've just seen the bookkeeping, which is diabolical. ( Client is alive and well.)

I am thinking of writing a letter indicating the many problems that need to be solved, stating the deadlines coming up in the next few months and stating that I will not bust a gut at the last moment to sort things out, and anyway cannot without client interaction. And saying I will do nothing further until she contacts me, and that there will be an extra fee if she leaves things very late.

How have you handled these types of people in the past? I've never had such a problem before.

Replies (16)

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By Cheshire
24th Mar 2018 14:00

Hi Moonbeam
I would probably dump and run! Im all for an easier life these days and there is enough 'stuff' to deal with (MTD, GDPR, CPD, blur blur blur), without having to deal with ignorant clients.

Would you really want to keep such a client if they are proving to be such a nightmare before you even get started?

If you dont decide to ditch straight away, then perhaps add a couple of things to your letter - acceptable future timescales for receipt of paperwork/what happens if such is missed. Also perhaps something about the appalling state of the bookkeeping and the extra fee to sort that out as well.

Thanks (3)
By legerman
24th Mar 2018 15:12

I had one like this a few years ago. I never received a single piece of paperwork and after about 3 months of her ignoring texts and phone calls and a missed VAT deadline I gave up and disengaged.

Thanks (2)
By lionofludesch
24th Mar 2018 15:44

Well, it depends on the timing.

On the one hand you imply that the ignoring has been going on for months. on the other, you've "just" seen the bookkeeping.

If it's as bad as you say, and if you can make contact at all, say up front that the bookkeeping's a lot worse than you quoted for and the fees will be much higher. If she wishes to try elsewhere, you'll understand.

Whatever she decides, you're a winner. Good fee or get shut.

Thanks (4)
By Paul Scholes
24th Mar 2018 16:08

If there's any potential value in her as a client, just send one more email to say that if you hear nothing from her in the next 7 days you'll assume she no longer wishes you to act for her.

Alternatively (and any client acting like this would be of no value to me) I'd email to say that due to her failure to respond (and the state of her books?) you are no longer prepared to act, setting out what you've done so far and what she and/or any future advisor, will be responsible for.

If saying no to a client goes against the grain, consider what you'd have been able to achieve with more respectful clients, or in your home life, had you not had to deal with and chase this one.

Thanks (2)
By andy.partridge
24th Mar 2018 16:40

I think you’re being too nice. Laying out the detail of what might happen and when and at what cost at some time in the future will be time consuming and will wind you up. Also it is likely to have no effect.

Keep it simple.

‘I have been trying to contact you about some important matters. I really would like you to respond within seven days to give me confidence that you are as committed to a mutually rewarding business relationship as I am.’

If this doesn’t work I would disengage. In my experience clients that begin like this are likely to get worse.

Thanks (4)
By Moonbeam
24th Mar 2018 17:27

Thank you for all the wise words. In fact I had been thinking about disengaging. I've had a tough time finding new clients and this will be the second one I've had to ditch, which is making me feel a tad desperate.

The facts indicate that if this client cooperates at all it will be on a spasmodic basis and I will be left with all the responsibility and none of the power. So I'll fire off one more email and then the disengagement email a week later.
Thank you for applying power to my elbow!

Thanks (1)
Replying to Moonbeam:
By jameshirst
25th Mar 2018 13:29

I'm responding as a (once) unresponsive client who is now reformed (mostly).

Even if you get the records and do the work, getting paid will be equally difficult.

Sounds like she needs a solution for the entire accounts process, invoices, payments, year end, VAT, all the compliance stuff.

So I'd offer her that solution - a quote for the entire job to be paid weekly by standing order.

That would've got my attention especially if you outlined the benefits , ie up-to-date management accounts, creditor lists, money owed, dealing with HMRC etc.

If she won't accept your solution, then it is likely that accounts are so low down her priority list that you should disengage.

Thanks (2)
Replying to jameshirst:
By Moonbeam
25th Mar 2018 13:59

But this sort of client is never going to supply the data to do the work - let alone pay extra for it. I've already discussed that scenario with the client before I saw the books and there was no enthusiasm for higher fees.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Moonbeam:
By Ammie
27th Mar 2018 10:37

Don't be despondent, keep working at it.

Quality clients are the way forward, poor clients not, who will very soon struggle to find any cooperation from a competent accountant then they will have much more to contend with.

MTD will create a major shake up in the availability and flow of work, your share is on its way!

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By free-rider
24th Mar 2018 23:00

I was in a similar situation with two of my clients. They both promised to deliver records on several occasions and failed to the point that the deadlines for accounts submission was missed.

I got to the point where I gave them a choice: either pay my usual fee *2.5/3 and I will sort everything out or we part the ways. One client found a fee too expensive whereas the other was happy to pay for me to sort out his mess.

There is no reason to hold for pita clients if they don't pay the healthy premium.

Thanks (0)
By bernard michael
25th Mar 2018 10:39

The chances of you ever getting paid on time are pretty slim so disengage now and let some other accountant have the problem
Just a thought. Was she required to get an accountant by some regulatory authority or other body and is now using your name as the incumbent

Thanks (1)
Replying to bernard michael:
By Moonbeam
25th Mar 2018 12:26

Client paid first month of 12 months instalment earlier this month and I wasn't planning to do anything more until I could see further money coming in. I've not been able to sign up with HMRC because client hasn't sent me back the codes.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Moonbeam:
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
26th Mar 2018 08:05

Moonbeam wrote:

I've not been able to sign up with HMRC because client hasn't sent me back the codes.

I can sympathise there - I have roughly 30% of the authorisations that I should have, and an awful lot of ‘client’ VAT portal accounts.
Lucky one can file PAYE/CT/SA without authorisation, I’ve always wondered why not VAT, but that’s a different thread in its own right.

Thanks (1)
By Ammie
27th Mar 2018 10:31

As has been mentioned, stop now, resign and move on as clearly this is a clear sign of things to come.

Had a very similar case a couple of years ago myself. Met, discussed, carried out some minor preparatory work and resigned all within a month.

These clients are the definition of "time wasters"

Often such short sighted clients change accountants regularly, a warning sign in itself.

Thanks (0)
By Husbandofstinky
27th Mar 2018 12:59

Repay instalment and disengage. Simples. We've all had them. A total no brainer.

Not a mercenary either and way too soft for those last idiot clients of old. Just those ones you seem to be stuck with.

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By bernard michael
27th Mar 2018 13:09

The annoying thing is that there isn't an open forum where these people can be named & shamed so all accountants in the area are pre-warned of the problem

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