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Discussion:Am I just tired and crotchety or should I be irritated?

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Discussion Forum Index --> General Chat --> Am I just tired and crotchety or should I be irritated?

EvaCPA (talk|edits) said:

8 April 2010
Hello all,

I'm new here and of course, tired right now. I have had this particular client for about two years now. She has always been wound up pretty tight and I've always been slow. I've had a small tax and consulting business for about 11 years and it's just me so I don't advertise speed.....just quality.

Anyway, she got miffed because she emailed me three days before she needed some info on her tax return saying "Please submit this info by this date." Well, it's the end of March, she had brought me her taxes in March and I had ten people ahead of her in line. She didn't like that I hadn't gotten to her yet and she also said she was going on vacation on the 13th of April and didn't feel comfortable extending her taxes.

She has on more than one occasion emailed me on a Thursday or a Friday requesting something by Monday, which I find a little arrogant. And now still even after I've pushed her ahead to accomodate her needs, she wants to pin me down to a date rather than just let me call and schedule an appointment for her to pick up after I'm sure I'm finished.

I'm starting to get angry and I'm afraid I'm going to have to remind her of the parameters of my services. Am I just tired and irritable? Most of my clients are satisfied that I'll call when I'm done. Or they might call checking in now and then, maybe. But not this,"I'd like to pick up my completed taxes on this date at this time." "Thank you."

I'm going to accomodate her again this time but should I keep my mouth shut when she gets here or tell her that in the future this is how it works, blah, blah, blah.....?? She'll probably go elsewhere if I do. Should I care? Her additional deadlines this time of year are very unwelcome....

Actionbsns (talk|edits) said:

8 April 2010
"Should I care"? How much of your business does she represent? If a large percentage, care a lot, if just average, you need to decide how much more of her grief you want to deal with. She thinks she can just push you around, and sounds like you've let her do that to some degree and she likes it so she'll keep pushing the envelope to see how far she can go. Be sure to remind her, politely, when she picks up her stuff that you have several others who have brought in their stuff ahead of her. You might include in the letter that goes out with the Organizer (if you do that), a phrase that clearly sets out to everyone a cutoff date that will insure the completion of a return and preclude extensions.

Barring that, do what I did, get a bag of peanut M&M's and your favorite ice blended coffee, or what Fred would do, drink some Tequila or what Harry would do and get some PBR. Any one or all of these things will cure crankiness.

PVCC-CCIFP (talk|edits) said:

Just my two cents.

Your client is obviously "trained" to a time management/proactive planning approach to life and issues. The approach to your work that you describe is reactive, though you might not use that term. Doesn't sound like a particularly good match to me.

I witnessed an interesting exchange between my boss and a client once when I was working in a busy lunch cafe. The cafe didn't serve dinner. It baked cakes, did catering, and its primary business was lunchtime. It was located in a downtown office building. It had 50 seats and from 11:30 to 2:00, its hours of operation, there was always a line at the door and we would turn the restaurant at least 3 and usually 4 times. One day a group of four comes in early in the lunch service. They have a nice lunch, talking light business and small talk. After desert, one of the customers reaches into his brief case and pulls out a somewhat detailed presentation with graphs and charts and many pages, and launches into an in depth discussion with one of the other lunch quests, obviously his customer. After about five minutes, my boss, the restaurants owner, parks himself behind and between the presenter and his customer and begins to take obvious interest in the charts and graphs being shared between the two. Needless to say the guy doing the presentation was somewhat aghast, and said something to the effect of "This is a private presentation." To which my boss replied, "Then you should be having it in your office, not mine."

The customer left promising never to come back, which of course is exactly what my boss had intended. He said to me later,"That's not the kind of restaurant I'm running, and since that customer was incabable of understanding that, I don't need customers like him", and he was right.

It sounds like you do a great job for your clients, but perhaps this particular one is oil to your water.

KatieJ (talk|edits) said:

8 April 2010
Great story, Dan!

Anarchrist (talk|edits) said:

8 April 2010
Next time she emails on Friday afternoon, reply Monday morning w/ something like, "I'm sorry since I have just received your email I will not be able to get you the requested info today. If you still desire it, let me know and I will have if for you on __________."
 >> I'm going to accommodate her again this time but should I keep my mouth shut when she gets here or tell her that in the future this is how it works <<

You should increase her fee substantially and not say anything, eg. if you charged her $300 the previous two years, charge her $450 this year. If she asks why the higher fee, then offer an explanation such as, "I explained my procedures to you numerous times but you were unsatisfied with them and kept insisting on preferential treatment. Since you kept demanding to have your return moved up in the queue, I had to charge an additional fee to accommodate you."

Death&Taxes (talk|edits) said:

8 April 2010
After 30 years of doing returns thru interviews and by mail (with phone consultations), I realize Type A people and I do not get along.....maybe that is why I am running my own shop.

I have this architect couple. The business is set up with wife owning 51%, so to get minority contracts. Husband is calm quiet and friendly; she is hell on wheels. They set Feb 23rd for our first meeting, then canceled because of press of work. I reset them for March 9th, and scheduled two other people to follow them in my branch office. They canceled that meeting....when I say 'they' I mean her. When I had a two hour cancellation on the 23rd, I suggested they bring their stuff in and held that time open only never to hear until the 25th. She says they made no money (I do believe that) but wants me to find time between now and the deadline. Right!

btw, she has also been throught 3 or 4 bookkeepers, people who do her Quickbooks.

My point: I've been with her since 1985 but every year I say, this is the last! Don't be like me and suffer client abuse....get rid of her.

Anarchrist (talk|edits) said:

8 April 2010
My point: I've been with her since 1985 but every year I say, this is the last!
     Don't be like me and suffer client abuse....get rid of her.

One of the best ways to do that is to increase her fee 50-100% each year until she either leaves or is paying you enough that your perception of her changes.

Szptax (talk|edits) said:

8 April 2010
An increased fee only goes so far. If they perceive they are paying a premium for catered service it might work for a while, but eventually you won't be satisfied with her as a client again. Her demands will increase to a point that no amount of money will suffice... ok, maybe no reasonable amount of money will suffice.. a million or 2 might sway me :-). My point is, if she isn't a good client for you, then she isn't a good client for you - period. Set your own parameters and stick with them. Next year include a deadline in your engagement letter. After extensions go out - send a letter to set your extension deadline. I did, and its quite liberating. When I did that I lost 2 clients because they didn't comply, after repeated requests & reminders and that's OK. My oldest client was one of them. He stopped by my house on a Saturday with incomplete information (before the extension deadline)and thought I would prepare the return by the following Thursday (10/15). I said "No", and I didn't didn't do it. He picked up his file the following Saturday.

Anarchrist (talk|edits) said:

8 April 2010
These accounting and tax bulletin boards seem to be loaded with people always advising their peers to run from problems instead of charging for them. The nature of our business is to provide a service. It's much wiser to provide those services and charge for them than to turn away business because the problem doesn't fit a perfect cookie cutter mold. The bigger the problem the bigger the fee.

If you're charging some ridiculously low price like $75 or $100 per return, then doubling the fee won't help the first or second year. The low rate is part of your problem.

But if you're charging a market rate and just not charging her for the extra work she causes, then doubling her fee will be beneficial to you. At some point she will leave because the fee is too high or you will be making four to five times your normal hourly rate working on her stuff and will find her to be a very profitable client.

Fsteincpa (talk|edits) said:

8 April 2010
Anarchrist, I totally agree with you in the raising the fee situation. It does more to adjust a clients temperament than a direct confrontation and a Dear John letter.

I am one who believes that if a client doesn't mesh, you either charge them enough that you love them, or you do send them packing. I have to actually dislike a client personally to send them away.

One Type A client used to call and leave a message, then they'd call back to see if the message was given to me. I try to return calls twice a day, all at once. Well, I added $200 to his normal $350 fee and of course the question was why so high this year.

I explained to him that my time is valuable and my staff's time is valuable. That he comes to us because we are good. I laid down my rules that would keep his fee at the lower rate <barring normal fee increases and changes>. He didn't like it but this year, the calling and pestering were removed and only normal correspondence ensued. He has been a model client ever since and his fee was lower this year, but more than the year before the VIP fee.

I would push her to the top of the list and get her done and do it happily. Put your normal fee on the bill, then add a line and call it VIP Fee and charge them an extra $200 or whatever you feel is a good amount. Personally, I wouldn't make it less than $200 and it should also be at least half of what her normal fee would be whichever is greater.

Explain to her why and she might be happy to pay that amount.

Szptax (talk|edits) said:

8 April 2010
You may come to an understanding with this client if you charge appropriately & set down the rules. I find though that if their lack of planning is too much becoming my problem then they must go. I suppose its once bitten twice shy. I had a client I fired for his extreme demands.... everyone said "just charge him more". In the end I walked away from 15-20K of fees. Why? Because there came a point where he felt that he "owned" me, or at least my time. There was always a crisis & lack of planning on his part. I felt his continued inconsiderate behavior was a sign of disrespect. This was confirmed when I wouldn't / couldn't comply with a non-accounting request. (He wanted a letter from me about a former employee of his, get your mind out of the gutter.) He suggested that it was he that kept a roof over my head & my children fed, and I had to write the letter. In short, that he owned me. Well screw that. This is years ago. I come to find out recewntly that he is now 1 strike away from the 3 strikes rule. I watch the paper for strike 3... I hear through the grapevine he is dangerously close..

MWPXYZ (talk|edits) said:

8 April 2010
I don't know as money would be the key issue, in most cases, and more than likely in the case of the original post. And if money is an issue, one might consider that pushy people can create liabilities beyond what you may have ever considered charging.

If you are a one person operation it is best not to have many clients that are "time sensitive". And even if you have a staff, you can only do so much in a day.

One additional advantage of having reasonable and caring clients is that as time goes on you will have your own troubles; and in those times it is quite a blessing to have clients/acquaintances/friends that will be "on your side". Of course it helps if it is obvious you have had their best interests at heart in the past. Many Type A people do not recognize that, but some will surprise you!

Actionbsns (talk|edits) said:

8 April 2010
Eva, I amend my original post to agree with the increased fee suggestion. I had a client a few years who said they'd bring everything in real soon, always sounded sincere, never brought in his stuff. I sent him a disengagement letter and closed out his files. This year he was back wanting copies of "everything from 2004 to the current date". I'm sure IRS is bothering him or he wants a loan or worse. I told him he needed to give me a specific list of what was required and I'd comply for a fee. So I did. I also included copies of all the e-mails and letters requesting information and letting him know his 2006 taxes could not be prepared without this data. It cost him $350 for the copies, which was my time charged at my tax prep rate. He was shocked, and angry but paid the bill. I suspect this time around he won't lose the stuff he just picked up, he also won't be back. BTW he had copies of everything I copied, he just "couldn't find them".

EvaCPA (talk|edits) said:

8 April 2010
Reading your responses is much more fum than working, do I have to go back to work?

It's so nice to vent to people that share my insanity!

Thanks for the great advice, especially the PBR except mine will be BLL(Bud Light Lime).

Fstein, I luv it. "you either charge them enough that you love them, or you do send them packing" Words of wisdom!

I did that years ago, a retired doc showed up on April 1st and said he "liked" to get his taxes back about 5 days before the due date so he could look it over. Heh....1st clue.....Then, he said his previous accountant had gotten too busy to accomodate that "like" and that's why he left her and came to me. Heh, 2nd clue.....He had been a doc and then retired as a doc and became a teacher and then retired from that. So he had about 12 pensions, a couple of annuities, a lot of investments, an out of state return, basically enough to warrant a big bill anyway.

All the while, I hadn't been in business all that long and wanted to keep my customers so I told him I'd do my best. Well, needless to say, he didn't get it back with 5 days to spare but he did get it before the 15th. He called after the first week to see if I was done yet, (I'm thinking, No, I'm just holding it hostage....Don't you think I'd call if I was done?) So, he proceeded to tell me this was bad business, blah, blah, blah.....

When he showed up to pick up he was in a much better mood until he saw my bill and he said, "My, there is a difference in fees between accountants, isn't there?" And I never saw him again. That's a good thing, btw.

So, I guess I'll have to do that again. Thanks for the commisurating with me.

EvaCPA (talk|edits) said:

8 April 2010
I meant fun, not fum.....Oops.

I love these stories, keep 'em coming, btw.

Wkstaxprep (talk|edits) said:

8 April 2010
Hi Eva,

Here's my two cents:

You seem like a very nice and caring person. The part you need to ask yourself is why would someone who is not respectful to you and is demanding go ahead of the line when that line consisted of loyal, good paying and appreciative clients?

Keep your good paying loyal customers happy and in the future you need to nip something like this in the bud right away but in a pleasant professional way. Also, it may be a good idea to have a general policy you try to achieve as a goal. For example before every tax season I email all my clients a FAQ list and one of the items I address is how long the return will take to be completed. I try to complete current clients within 4-7 days and new clients within 10-14 days.

Last thing, if you tell this person kindly to go somewhere else you will feel very good about yourself, trust me. The time you wasted on this guy could have been time spent getting new clients or making current clients even more happy and more likely to send you referrals :)

Best of luck !

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