Every accounting business has horror stories about difficult accounting clients who seem like more trouble than they are worth. Late-night phone calls, repeatedly misplaced paperwork and overly aggressive personalities are only a few of the problems some clients present on a regular basis. A professional manner and confident attitude can help you cope with difficult accounting clients and build solid relationships for the future of your practice.
Retaining existing clients is usually easier and more profitable than obtaining new clients for your accounting business. The best way to retain clients is to form good working relationships. Unfortunately, this is not easy with difficult accounting clients. A Christmas phone call from a client for information that could wait until after the holiday does not forebode a positive future. In situations like this, polite honesty is the best response. Although one gaffe is easily overlooked, a series of problems requires follow-up. Set up a meeting with the client to discuss your concerns in a courteous manner.
During the meeting, express your concerns. It is best if you have clear notes ready about any problem areas. Listen carefully to your client's response. The goal is two-way communication to build a relationship that works. Everybody goes through difficult times, and your client may be under a lot of stress. Be assertive in your needs and about the services you provide, but use a respectful manner. Never get angry or raise your voice. Anger limits true communication and is likely to escalate the situation. Always separate the person you are talking to from the action that is out of line. A clear statement that you only accept emergency calls after hours is better received than saying that the difficult accounting client is too needy or forgetful or irksome.
On your end, alleviate some of your stress in dealing with difficult accounting clients by minimizing unnecessary contact with them. If you have a staff, delegate some interactions. If the sound of the client's voice is a trigger, communicate more by email. Remember that it is acceptable to charge more for the extra time you spend on helping a needy client, for extra tasks you complete and for unnecessary frustrations dealt to you. Let thoughts of the extra revenue carry you through more difficult interactions. If all else fails, consider firing truly difficult accounting clients. Although this should be a last ditch solution, when the stress starts to trickle into your interactions with other clients or your personal life, working on the relationship may not be worth the effort.
Dealing with difficult clients is a part of nearly every industry. It is not fun, but with the right level of professionalism and communication, most business relationships can be improved. Do not be afraid to assert your needs to your more difficult accounting clients. Standing firm takes a bit of courage, but in the end, you can congratulate yourself on a job well done.
Photo courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net