Dear Nick: 'I’m losing the will to live with a few clients'
Dealing with demanding clients is tough at the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic when there are CJRS claims to submit, homeschooling and other clients to support.
AccountingWEB's resident agony uncle Nick Elston advises an AccountingWEB reader struggling to cope with demanding clients.
Dear Nick: I’m losing the will to live with a few clients at the moment. Records have been in for the year-end work for only a few weeks and [my clients] are already pestering 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.
Nick’s response: “I know will resonate a lot with accountants right now.
People are acting from a position of fear right now. Money and tax can be a massive anxiety trigger in ‘normal’ times, let alone in these crazy days.
The Chancellor will come on TV and showcase the latest initiative, tax break or ‘solution’ and within seconds your phone will ring off the hook from clients demanding action or to find out how to claim when you have literally watched the same update as them.
The expectation is that you should know. It’s irrational, it makes no sense and it’s born out of fear – but that is the expectation you are dealing with as people can be highly anxious and sensitive right now.
What I have been working on with many clients and audiences is ‘managing expectations’.
- What can they expect from you?
- What can’t they expect from you?
- What can you help them with?
- What can’t you help them with?
- Build a process which highlights the current roadmap as it stands right now – then show them.
Once you have done that, you may need to set even further boundaries to safeguard your sanity as well as ring-fence your family time, especially with home-schooling being on the ‘to do’ list at the moment.
- Set your working hours.
- Consider using a virtual assistant to act as a ‘landing place’ for callers and emails.
- If not, set a voicemail which clearly states how you and when you are currently working.
- Give timescales which have ‘buffer zones’ built in to allow for unplanned issues.
- Review what ‘free stuff’ you are doing for them – as people do not value free.
- Can you outsource the client or are they even worth keeping hold of?
- Can you afford to level up the business by bringing in more people?
From my experiences in the corporate world, most of my client headaches came from the lowest spending but most high maintenance customers.
You have tried to keep it simple, keep it human and reason with them that for very valid reasons things are not ‘normal’ right now.
Their failure to recognise and acknowledge that is very much on them. If it wasn’t this that triggered them it would have been something else further down the line.
Your primary responsibility is to yourself. Like the old aeroplane adage, you need to put your oxygen mask on first to be able to help other people. Your next responsibility is to your family.
Of course, you need clients – but the right clients. Maybe this could be a filtering process for you to choose who you want to work with and just maybe, who you don’t want to work with.
Only you know the commercials of that decision, but in the meantime, keep being human, keep your self-care and sanity as a priority, put in place your boundaries and manage those expectations.
And as always, if you would like to talk more about this, do reach out to me: [email protected].
This month’s dilemma was taken the Any Answers thread ‘dealing with clients’ posted by AccountingWEB reader Busacrun.
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Nick Elston is one of the leading inspirational speakers on the subjects of anxiety, mental health and wellbeing - from an experience sharing perspective - and delivers his talks to stages, corporates, boardrooms, factories, universities, schools and events worldwide. His coaching programme is called Life On Your Terms.