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Is There Really Such a Thing as a "Bad" Client?

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Over the course of your accounting career, there's likely been a client (or two) who's been nothing but a pain. This is something all accountants and bookkeepers can relate to. In a new content series, Billie Anne Grigg looks into what she refers to as the Myth of the Unreasonable and Demanding Client and discusses ways to improve relationships and more.

May 11th 2021
Senior Strategic Guide Profit First Professionals
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When I say the words "unreasonable and demanding," chances are, a client - either past or present - just sprang to mind. After all, everyone has had a client they've considered just throwing up their hands and disengaging with:

  • The client who emails, then calls to make sure you got the email.
  • The client who submits their information late, then complains that their work isn’t done when promised.
  • The client who has an emergency meeting at the bank at 10am tomorrow morning and needs you to update their bookkeeping...even though you’ve been asking them for clarification on their Ask My Client account for months.
  • The client you were glad to see leave...until you read the negative (and untrue!) review they left about your service.

Sometimes, we can tell a prospect is going to be an unreasonable and demanding client:

  • They don’t complete your discovery call questionnaire, leaving you to either navigate the discovery call blind or cancel it altogether.
  • Instead of connecting to the Zoom meeting you set up for the discovery call, they call five minutes after the call was scheduled to start and ask if you’re still meeting.
  • They no-show to the discovery call, then reach out a week later asking if they can reschedule.
  • Or maybe they don’t schedule a discovery call at all; instead, they call and insist on speaking with you before taking this first, oh-so-easy step.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do about these clients except disengage them as soon as possible (or listen to our gut and not sign them on as clients at all).

Some clients are just unreasonable and demanding.

Aren’t they?

The Myth

In my role at Profit First Professionals, I oversee requests from business owners asking to be introduced to an accountant or bookkeeper. Occasionally, these business owners come across as unreasonable and demanding...until I dig deeper. Without fail, these business owners are looking for one thing in a financial professional:

Good communication.

They don’t usually request good communication directly. Instead, they share with me how other accountants and bookkeepers have let them down. Having been a bookkeeping firm owner myself, I’ve found their perspective to be educational. These interactions with business owners have led me to reconsider some of my own “unreasonable and demanding” clients.

And I can see where I - and other accountants and bookkeepers - are letting these business owners down.

The Real Problem

When it comes to their numbers, business owners are scared. They don’t understand accounting, and they’ve read the same horror stories we have about unethical accountants and bad bookkeepers. They’re afraid of being swindled. They’re afraid of losing their business and letting down their families. They’re afraid of getting into trouble with the IRS and going to jail.

Instead of helping them overcome this fear, accountants and bookkeepers often introduce more fear, especially early on in the relationship. We don’t intend to do this, of course - in fact, our systems and processes are designed to ultimately make things easier for our clients as well as ourselves - but our prospects and clients don’t understand what we’re asking them to do, or why we’re asking them to do it. And so, they start exhibiting “unreasonable and demanding” behavior.

I’ve come to realize that, with a few exceptions, there are very few “bad” clients. In fact, I would postulate that there are very few “bad fit” clients, too.

There are, however, fearful clients. Uneducated clients. And it’s our job as service providers to alleviate this fear and educate these clients not only on financial matters, but also on our processes and how what we are asking them to do will ultimately help them.

In other words, our job is to stop being unreasonable and demanding accountants and bookkeepers.

Over the next four weeks, I will share with you exactly how to turn an unreasonable and demanding client into one of your favorite clients...and what to do when a client truly isn’t a good fit for your firm.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts: Do you agree that there’s no such thing as a bad client?

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By SkinnVinny
May 12th 2021 22:59

Yes, there are bad clients. But the solution is to make it all about the money. And yes, it is always about the money. Those who say, "It's not about the money, it's about the principle" are lying. For bad clients, continue to raise their fees until they either quit or fall in line.

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