Communication is key. And in accounting firms, we often need to be able to communicate with multiple clients or multiple client types at once....
Frustrated chasing your clients for missing info? 3 ways to get them to cooperate...
Frustrated chasing your clients for missing info? We asked 3 accountants & bookkeepers for their tried-and-tested methods for getting clients to cooperate better...
I’m sure you’ve experienced this exact situation…
You email your client asking for that missing information. It could be missing invoices, receipts, or a nudge for their tax return information.
A week or so later, another email gets sent. You wait a few more days, still nothing, crickets.
You try phoning the client to remind them. Nothing. They’re unresponsive.
Eventually, after several emails, voicemails, and lots of cajoling, you receive the information from the client.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re requesting information to submit personal tax returns, or simply trying to get everything you need to complete your client’s monthly financials - there will always be some clients that take their time.
It’s incredibly frustrating - in fact, in a recent webinar we ran for bookkeepers, they said chasing clients for information was their biggest challenge!
The audience voted this more challenging than dealing with clunky & slow systems and hitting deadlines on time.
So, what can you do? Well, we’ve turned to the people on the front line for help!
We caught up with 3 superstars from the Pixie accounting & bookkeeping community to find out how they deal with unresponsive clients in their firms.
But before we divulge their tried-and-tested secrets, let's take a look at one of the more obvious and immediate answers… automation!
How can automation help to get information from clients on time?
Setting up automated email reminders to ‘nag’ your clients to send information can help save time and bother you and your team.
Using automation to help with this means that:
- You and your team don’t have to remember to do it, which frees up mental energy
- You don’t have to spend time writing emails and chasing clients, which means you can spend more time getting work done
- It helps to improve the quality and consistency of the communication being sent to your clients (instead of different people writing different emails every time)
But let’s be honest…
Yes, automation will do a lot of the grunt work for you. But it won’t magically fix all of your client communication problems.
There will still be clients who will drag their feet, procrastinate and make it difficult to get the information you need from them.
So what do you do in that scenario?
Well, let’s take a look…
Can you make it easier for your clients to respond better?
If your clients are unresponsive, can you make it easier for them to respond better?
According to Melanie Schroeder, Founder & CEO at Out Of The Box CPA, yes, you can guide your clients, but only if they want to be.
“What works for me is learning about my clients and how they learn and what works best for them, and then seeing if I can incorporate that into my systems. A win, win always works best. Always ask, always keep the lines of communication open and try not to take it personally when they get frustrated.”
The theme of finding what works best for your clients is echoed by Gabrielle Fontaine, Founder at BookkeepingDirect…
“Meet the clients where they are. For me, most often, it has been a simple matter of asking them what their preferred method of communication (meeting, email, or other) is, then I consistently follow through with what works for the client.”
So now we’ve agreed that it is possible to guide your clients, let’s take a look at how we can get them to cooperate a little better…
How do you get your clients to cooperate better?
Getting your clients to work with you (and not against you) comes down to them understanding the benefits of what you’re trying to do.
Kimberley Erick, Founder at Home Time Business Services, said...
“Sometimes it is about letting them know that you are implementing systems to make everyone's life easier. When it is simple, they tend to comply. I send a short video on how to do it and then expect them to come along”.
This was supported by Melanie, who said...
“It’s not usually hard because most of the time it makes sense too, either from a financial or time-based perspective. You just have to make sure to lay out the advantages and benefits to them, not to you.”
So far, so good. We know that we can guide clients and that laying out the benefits to them can help them cooperate more...
What if clients continue to be unresponsive over time?
But what happens if some clients continue to be unresponsive? How do you deal with situations where clients continue to send requested information in late, despite your repeated requests?
“I will be persistent to a point, but when client non-responsiveness creates negative consequences, I allow the client to experience the pain of their inaction. If that does not cause a shift in behaviour over the period of a few months, we have a no-win situation, and I will target the client for termination from my client base.”
A similar view was shared by Kimberley, who said...
“If they don't come along, we need to make decisions if they are an ideal client for our company. Unfortunately, without paperwork, we are limited on what we can do for the client.”
This might sound a little drastic - after all, nobody likes the idea of having to let go of clients.
But looking at the bigger picture, is it as bad as it seems?
Melanie doesn’t think so…
“I try not to assume what the cause is. There could be any number of reasons other than that they just don’t want to be cooperative. In fact, most times, that’s not the case. Try to apply the benefit of the doubt rule and ask before making up your mind. The worst that can happen is you find out you and the client aren’t a good fit, and you can part ways on good terms.”
Getting your clients to be more responsive is as easy as ABC
If chasing clients for missing information is a big challenge in your firm right now, getting them to cooperate is as easy as ABC…
A - Automate those ‘nag’ reminders to free up your time and mental energy
B - Benefits need to be clearly explained, so your clients know exactly what needs to happen and by when (and the advantages it has for them)
C - Continued unresponsiveness should be addressed. Try to find out what’s up, and if things don’t improve, the client might not be the right fit for you.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you. It’s your business, so you decide the rules.
If clients don’t want to cooperate, well… it might be time to ask whether they’re an ‘ideal client’ after all...