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Ways to Deal with Difficult Clients

Jul 11th 2016
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In the world of accounting, it’s demanding enough to keep up with the rules and regulations and other intricacies of the profession without having to deal with difficult clients.

Unfortunately, like in any business, you’ll come across some difficult clients who, although you may want to forget, you still need to push forward with in order to complete the task at hand. The problems, however, lie in whether you have the knowledge and understanding on how to properly handle problematic clients.

This brief article will hopefully offer you some useful tips on how to better address issues with your more challenged clients while working in a high-paced accounting firm, such as yours.

Be Specific When Talking to Clients

In general, difficult clients tend to become that way because they have legitimate concerns that are not addressed in a manner they deem acceptable. So, when they start to use words like “nothing’s working” or “everything’s wrong,” it’s important to start being specific about their situation, and use measurable and actionable advice to help steer them in the right direction.

For one, try asking them for a specific example of what the trouble actually is about. If you know how to help, and it’s likely you do, work your client through this trouble, and use something measurable to offer them advice on how to get through it. For example:

Client: Everything’s wrong!

Accountant: What exactly do you feel is going wrong at the moment?

Client: My business isn’t seeming to be making the money I need it to.

Accountant: Well, how about start to look over your accounts and your marketing strategy to see whether there’s anything we can adjust. Will this help to fix the problem?

As you can see, by working through any problems slowly and offering some actionable advice, you have a better chance of not only calming them down, but helping to resolve the problem they’re obviously stressing about. If your client is ranting about something, acknowledge what they’re saying, but don’t necessarily agree with them. Instead, shift the focus onto solving the problem at hand to get their minds off what they’re ranting about and focus on the issue at hand.

Recognize a Personality Conflict

In some cases, the difficulty you’re experiencing may just come down to a personality conflict between an accountant and client. In situations such as this, it’s important to first recognize it, then ask your client if they’d prefer to have another accountant work with them. If this is the case, assign another staffer to the client who you feel would best cover their needs.

Rather than continually exposing yourself to the stress of a difficult client, move them along to someone who may be more skilled in helping them with their needs. It’s also important to make the client realize that you’re not just palming them off onto someone else, but you’re offering them great customer service in providing them with someone who can perhaps better address their specific issues.

Choose Your Words Carefully

When working with difficult clients in your line of business, it’s important to choose your words carefully. While you may know the language of accounting, it doesn’t necessarily mean your client does.

Most of the time, a difficult client doesn’t understand what’s going on with their current accounting situation, which is likely why they turned to you in the first place. This is where you need to discuss matters with them in clear, easy-to-understand and actionable words to ensure both you and your client are on the same page.

Clients who don’t know what you’re talking about will often become apprehensive about the whole situation. Instead, stop and listen to how your client speaks and try to mimic some of the similar words they use. Or, at the very least, try to simplify your explanations either visually or, again, in a more colloquial manner.

Final Thoughts

Difficult clients may come and go, but by utilizing these great tips above, you can easily help to resolve the conflict so you can both come out as winners in the end. Above all else, keep your cool, be calm, and understand that some clients just need a bit more understanding and handling than others. Have you dealt with a difficult client lately? How did you handle it?