Business owners have a lot of responsibilities competing for their attention, which can make it difficult for bookkeepers and accountants to chase them down. On one hand, non-responsive clients can be costly and time-consuming for you and your practice. On the other hand, a tactful response is often needed to avoid damaging client relationships.
Let’s take a look at a few different ways to deal with non-responsive bookkeeping clients without damaging your relationship with them.
Business owners have a lot of responsibilities competing for their attention—here are some tips to help you deal with unresponsive clients.
#1. Get at the Root Cause
Everyone has different schedules, communication preferences and ways of going about their business. If a client is being unresponsive, it’s best to reach out to them to find out what the problem is and how you can help them improve communication. This could mean picking up the phone or scheduling a face-to-face meeting to get everyone on the same page.
Some common reasons for non-responsiveness include:
Non-Tech Savvy: A client may be intimidated by technology and unable to accomplish tasks, like file uploads, without some technical support. In some cases, they may be entirely unwilling to use technology, creating a need for different approaches.
Highly Distracted: A client may be easily distracted during their day-to-day and require dedicated meetings to accomplish to-do items. Or, you may need to send reminders multiple times to ensure they are seen.
Spread-too-Thin: A client may be spread too thin between their business and family life and another point of contact may be necessary to complete tasks. You may also need to make it clear why the tasks are so important to complete on time.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to make clients more responsive. The right answer depends on their individual circumstances and customized approaches may be required to ensure effective two-way communication. The good news is that understanding these things early on can help avoid frustration on both sides that builds up over time.
#2. Use Consistent Communication
There are many different ways to get in touch with clients, ranging from simple emails to meetings, but that doesn’t mean you should use them all. Making one request via email and a different one via phone is a surefire way to confuse a client. On the other hand, consistently using a single communication channel can help keep everyone on the same page.
Automation is another way to ensure consistent communication. Using concise pre-written email templates, you can request information in a highly consistent manner and save time. You can even schedule these email templates to automatically send at regular intervals for recurring tasks eliminating the need to remember them each week, month or quarter.
We built Client Hub to solve a lot of these problems. Clients can sign onto a single website or mobile app to access all of their messages, files and tasks (see the screenshot above) while you can keep everything organized and share information with other team members. You can even automate recurring requests to avoid having anything slip through the cracks.
#3. Be Clear & Concise with Requests
Non-responsive clients might have a laundry list of tasks in their backlog, but that doesn’t mean that you should send a lengthy email packed with every single to-do item. Busy clients will almost always put off such time-consuming requests and eventually forget about them. It’s much better to send bite-sized requests that take a few minutes to complete.
When writing these requests, leave out unnecessary details, spell out exactly what’s needed and indicate a deadline if it’s time sensitive. You may also want to include why the information is needed or why the deadline is important—without going into too much detail. Clients should know in a few seconds what they need to do and why it needs to get done.
Once the client responds to the message and completes a task, you can send them the next tasks on the list. This piecemeal approach is much less intimidating than a long list of to-dos and the momentum of making progress towards a goal is addictive. If clients don’t respond to even simple tasks, it might be time to revisit #1 above and find out why.
#4. Make It Easy
Many accountants and bookkeepers use a variety of different tools to interact with clients. For example, they may use email to send messages, file upload services to share files and other tools to gather client information. The problem is that we already use hundreds of different online services and some software can be complicated to use.
When choosing software, a key consideration should be its ease of use. Clients should be able to easily set up an account and instantly understand how to use the software. Overly complex software is a surefire way to alienate clients and reduce their responsiveness to tasks that involve using the software to accomplish basic tasks.
For example, when building Client Hub, we integrated QuickBooks to make it easier to resolve uncategorized expenses. Rather than forcing clients to sign in to the QuickBooks account and track down an uncategorized expense, they can sign in to the Client Hub portal and answer a simple question that you send them as well as send messages to clarify anything.
When communicating with clients, you should make it as easy as possible for them to complete a task. For example, you should provide links if you want them to upload files or let them know when they can respond with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. They shouldn’t have to go back through their email or search online to figure out what they need to do to complete the task.
The Bottom Line
Two-way communication is critical for accountants and bookkeepers, so unresponsive clients can be a major source of frustration. It’s important to keep in mind that most non-responsive clients are just very busy and might need the right nudge. Using the tips above, you can increase the responsiveness of these clients and streamline your own operations.
Client Hub can help you improve responsiveness by simplifying and consolidating communication and automating recurring tasks. In addition, the platform makes it easy to internally manage clients between different team members and ensure that you don’t miss any important tasks along the way. Try Client Hub today.