As accountants, sometimes chasing down a client can feel bit like dealing with an unresponsive teenager, only without the ability to ground them when they refuse to answer important requests. However, it is important to remember that most business owners have an incredible amount of pressure and responsibilities that are fighting for their attention, and emails from accountants and CPAs tend to lose top priority. In today’s practice management blog, we’ll discuss how to reengage unresponsive clients in a way that makes them feel empowered and partnered with, not encumbered and belittled. Here’s what to do when you encounter a client that just won’t get back to you.
While we may be embarrassed to admit to Facebook stalking that ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend we had decades ago, there’s no shame in taking advantage of the digital age we live in to serve your clients better. Check out your clients on their different social media outlets, and observe whether they are having any big life events they forgot to fill you in on, like moving, getting married, or having a baby. If so, use this to reach out and connect with them. Congratulate them, and send them a card or a gift. By adjusting your expectations and creating meaningful connections, you can help them to feel that you are in their corner.
Give Them a Call
This may sound obvious, but in the age of email, Facebook, and Slack, having an old-fashioned phone conversation is a strategy that can often be overlooked. Calling someone is a good way to get someone’s immediate attention, while closing as much of the communication gap as possible. There’s plenty of research showing that creating personal connections can go miles in building trust. If a client sees you as a member of their team, and not another email bogging down their inbox, they may be more eager to respond quickly.
Keep it Short and Sweet
Most accounting clients are deep in the weeds of their daily business. You are more likely to create an environment of responsiveness by sending a high number of simple requests, than you are by sending one long request that they will most likely put off until they find the time (read: never). Instead of sending long emails packed with all the backlog of needs and details, try sending a request for something that is easy to accomplish in under five minutes. Once they respond to that, send the next task.
Consider Your Audience
Are you dealing with someone who may be less technologically-minded? Are they direct and focused, or maybe very easily distracted as their mind races in several directions at once? Taking these things into consideration, and tailoring your communication style to each individual’s needs, will go a long way in gaining their trust. For example, if your client is easily distracted, try to offer them a setting, such as live a video conference, where the face-to-face interaction will help keep them focused. If they are direct, honestly and politely share with them what the consequence will be to their business if the specific task is hindered further. Communication between accountant and client is too often a one-size-fits-all process. The more you bend your approach, the easier your battles will be.
Invest in an Automated Client Portal for Accountants
We have mentioned emails several times throughout this article, but in fact, it is very dangerous for modern CPAs and accounting firms to exchange client data through an unsecured public email server. If your account is hacked and your clients’ financial details are stolen, you could be on the hook for thousands of dollars in fines and litigation. It’s much safer and much easier to communicate through a secure client portal that can automatically send friendly reminders out for you. While what we have discussed about personal interaction holds true, sometimes the easiest way to get through to an unresponsive client is to patiently keep at it—and no matter how patient you are, we’re betting a practice management software can keep its patience much better than you can!
Whichever strategy you decide to employ, remember that client engagement doesn’t have to cost a lot of time or create huge inefficiencies. A simple change in wording, acknowledging circumstances, or switching up the communication tool will usually do the trick!
ImagineTime has provided practice management software solutions for accountants, CPAs, and attorneys for over 20 years. To learn more about our client portal software for accountants, please click here.