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Businessman screaming at ghosts AccountingWEB What do you do when a client ghosts you?
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What do you do when a client ghosts you?

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It’s never easy being broken up with… by the new fling… over email. The Any Answers community shared their advice on what to do when a client ghosts you. 

9th Jan 2024
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Saying goodbye to clients is a popular topic on AccountingWEB and one that requires a delicate and professional approach. 

However, when faced with a situation where the other person isn't reciprocating professional courtesy, it can become difficult. It is important not to take it personally, remain professional and maintain a good reputation. 

JimLittle took to Any Answers and wrote about his experience of a client of six years ghosting him. He only found out they were leaving when the new accountant sent a professional clearance letter via email. 

“I am fine with clients leaving and don’t care why but at least have the courtesy to inform me beforehand,” he said.

“I was even chatting to the director of the company a couple of hours earlier, then I received the letter. Not sure why they never notified me.”

JimLittle continued, “I always have responded to them immediately and think I have provided an exceptional service to them. I am tempted to say something to this client about the lack of respect.”

The Any Answers community shared their own experiences and advice on how to approach and deal with the situation. 

It’s not you, it’s me 

Some AccountingWEB members advised JimLittle to remember that these situations happen. Remembering that you are a business and clients are bound to leave is a helpful way of staying professional. 

AccountingWEB member Mydoghasfleas wrote: “Perhaps he did not want an ‘it's not you, it's me’ conversation or a confrontation, most people do not.”

Another commenter, Beach Accountancy reassured JimLittle with their own experience. “A client ditched me, I thought I was providing a good service. He is now on his third accountant after me (that I know of) in four years. Pleased to know it wasn't just me!”

Regular reader Truthsayer agreed with Beach Accountancy and wrote: “This has happened to me lots of times. It just means you can rid yourself of a bad client. Don't fret about it.”

The Any Answers community mentioned that client turnover isn’t always a reflection of the service provided so it’s important to acknowledge that clients move on for reasons unrelated to the accountant's performance. 

“You need to focus on what you can do rather than wonder or agonise over that which you could never influence,” Duggimon said. 

They continued, “I would be focusing on extricating myself with the minimum of fuss and getting as quickly as possible to a place where I don't need to think about it any more.”

It’s time to move on 

Others agreed that when a client leaves it’s best to not take things personally, to learn from the experience and move on. 

AccountingWEB commenter Kaylee100 said: “It's really not worth your energy pushing back. Ask the client for their permission in writing to pass the information requested on, do all the things you have to do, and let them move on.”

“Lots of people cannot face up to people and have difficult conversations. It says more about them than you. So, remain professional and keep your head held high. Don't let them drag you down,” she advised. 

This was also echoed by two other users, Railwayman2 who responded, “Disengage in the simplest way, try to forget it and press on with your other clients,” and Indomitable who wrote, “Just let it go. This is part of being in business and in practice. It doesn't matter, don't get upset.”

Key points to takeaway

  • Remain professional – reactivating negatively can hurt your reputation. 
  • Not every client is a good fit.
  • Ensure clear communication and closure – fulfil obligations and part ways in a respectful manner. 
  • Focus on current clients. 
  • Learn from your experiences and identify any areas for improvement.
  • Move forward – don’t dwell on these situations. Acknowledge what happened, learn what you can and focus on future prospects. 

Have you experienced a similar situation? How did you deal with it? Let us know in the comments below.

Replies (5)

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David Ross
By davidross
09th Jan 2024 10:38

It always hurts, and so I insist that a client thanks our predecessor before I will get in touch with them.

Happily we have 'lots of small little fishes' so the financial loss of one client is no pain. It is the feeling that we must have let them down (though of course that is not always the case).

Most satisfying when you hear that your successor also got fired ...

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By NewACA
09th Jan 2024 10:51

To be honest, its a lack of respect from the new accountant, not the client in my opinion.

Client's normally don't switch accountant often, and so aren't aware of any protocol on switching accountant; they don't know the professional etiquette unless they are told. It can easily be thought by a client that the new accountant will take care of notifying the old accountant, unless they are told otherwise.

When I took on new clients, I always had a template rejection email ready to give to the new client, to send to their old accountant, which I encouraged them to tailor, or "make their own".

I would not contact the new accountant until the new client had confirmed they had sent it to the old accountant first. In many cases, the client confirmed they had sent it by forwarding on to me the old accountant's acceptance, which was sometimes interesting! I never had any problems with clients refusing to do that courtesy email to their old accountant, so I didn't have to worry about what would happen if they refused to send such an email to their old accountant.

If the new accountant hasn't provided such etiquette information to the new client, this is a symptom of not caring about others, which in turn means they are likely to not care about the client either, and the original poster may find the client wanting to come back. I did have a few occasions when clients came back quickly after they realised they had jumped from the frying pan into the fire!

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By Ian McTernan CTA
09th Jan 2024 10:59

It's a fact of life that you will lose clients for a huge variety of reasons, and almost all of them are entirely out of your control.

I lost a client this year of 20+ years standing: his income has shrunk so much it's no longer feasible to engage my services, so we had a good long chat and parted ways on the best of terms, and told him if he needs help at any stage I would be more than happy to help.

Second instance is the hard one: last call from a client who is also, along with his wife, a very good friend, before he goes into hospital for treatment with a 5-10% survival rate. He's been very level headed throughout, we've done all the planning, that was one last tough call to have. We're still hoping he makes it through.

Last year was the client just disappearing, no communication, nothing and hasn't appointed a new agent either, accounts now very late. I know he's alive as he's posted on social media but I think he may just have given up on the business...

So don't take it personally if a client moves on, concentrate on those you do have and make them feel needed and wanted as well as giving the best service you can. And always remain professional- which is not always easy!

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By Self-Employed and Happy
09th Jan 2024 11:25

We've been going 6 years and the only ones that have left are the ones we disengaged telling them to find someone else.

I'm sure the day will come when someone leaves our grasp of their own accord and when it does we'll reset the timer :)

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By Postingcomments
09th Jan 2024 14:25

Final bullet point - Send a formal disengagement letter. Don't want any comebacks later on.

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