Chasing clients for their information is a headache yet accountants spend so much of their time chasing because they can’t do their job without it. It’s a constant battle requesting a list of supporting documents and describing what they’re for over and over again only to not get them back in a timely fashion. Overall, it is a massive waste of time and money. To eliminate the chasing (and to keep your sanity), here are a few tricks for getting information from clients.
4 ways for getting information from clients (without continuously chasing)
Set expectations and educate at the initial meeting
At the initial meeting with your new client, set the expectations straight away. Talk honestly with the client, be clear and define how the relationship will work moving forward including what you will need (and when) from them for you to provide the best possible service. Explain the impact that missing and late information will have on your service standards to emphasise the importance of this.
When you discuss getting information from them, help them to see that sending information over late is bad for them too. To do this, you could create a simple resource that shows them the problems and costs that will occur such as fines and higher accountancy fees.
Automate the process
When it comes to getting information from clients, personally chasing them and following up again and again is a colossal waste of your time. To streamline this process (and save you a headache or three), find an automated email system to send repeated requests for you.
You can either simply create standardised email request templates and schedule them to be sent out or you can use this in combination with programmes such as EchoSign to make it even easier for clients to fill in, sign and send documents back to you.
If you want to automate the process even further, you can look at using programmes such as Senta. This is a great practice management system which allows you to send out texts and emails to clients to remind them when you need information from them. It also allows you to manage all of your client’s communications and store all of their documents as well as organise your own time. And even better Accountants' Growth Club members get 10% of the first 12 months of using Senta.
Invoice for over time
No matter how clear you are with your clients about getting their information to you on time and even if you have a fully automated reminder system to cut down on manually following up, you will still get those late clients who approach you in January wanting their tax return submitted by the 31st of the month.
In this scenario, make it clear that being late always results in fees for the client. Explain that you have no problem working late to save them £100 in late filing fees but you will have to send them your invoice for your additional hours to rush their return through. If your invoice is for £500 payable in advance, you’ll soon see that many clients decide to pay the late fine instead and aren’t late again.
Be firm and let them go if you have to
If you keep having issues with getting information from clients on time and it is taking up far too much of your time for little reward, it may be worth letting these clients go. If you have reached this point, be firm and honest with the client and give them alternative options.
When you sit down with these clients at year-end, explain that you can only accommodate a certain percentage of clients who leave things to the last minute and you have too many. Instead of saying it’s not working and parting ways, put the decision in their hands. Would they rather stay on with you and reschedule their work or pay a higher fee? Would they prefer for you to find them another firm?
Don’t waste your time (any more than you have to)
Although you want to provide the best possible service for your clients, it is not down to you to continuously chase your clients to get their information in on time. This wastes too much of your time, time that needs to be spent staying on top of outstanding invoices, documentation and files as well as developing the firm.
To make your accounting firm more efficient and more profitable, when it comes to getting information from clients, stop personally chasing them. All you can do is educate them about late fees, automate the follow-up process and invoice for your time. Eventually, when your clients know how you like to work and the consequences of them not being on time, you will significantly lower your non-billable hours and your firm will complete client jobs a lot faster.