How to stop your clients’ last minute-itus

Aug 2, 2022 | Client service, Sole practitioners

How many of your clients only do things at the last minute? Too many, I’d bet.

You’re not alone though as “Clients’ last minute-itus” is a common complaint I hear from accountants all over the UK. The question then is how to avoid this?

First we need to be clear as to the cause of the problem.

Many accountants tell me it’s always been like this. Clients won’t change.

And so, like all the other accountants who experience this problem, you reluctantly accept that there is nothing you can do to change things.

But wait a moment. Is that true really? Or is it simply a convenient assumption?

Of course it’s true. Each year you send out request after request for tax return and accounts information. You chase these up with email after email. And yet some clients only respond at the last minute. Nothing you have tried has had the desired effect. It’s a lost cause.

Hmm.

Many clients are causing this problem.

Not ALL your clients then? Of course not. Some clients don’t like leaving things to the last minute. They prefer to get things sorted sooner rather than later. Of course they do. This is because all of your clients are different .

They respond to different incentives, to different motivations and to different forms of communication.

So why do we assume that the same things will motivate all of our clients?

When I’m not speaking on stage these days I support and advise my sole practitioner clients. This isn’t just about them making more money or getting more clients. It includes helping them to get and keep the right type of clients. And encouraging them to be good clients.

It’s your practice. You’re the professional. You’re the one engaged to provide a necessary service. You’re the one whose advice the client should be taking. If they won’t do so, why allow them to remain a client?

Ahh. Yes. I know. You can’t afford to lose any clients. Even the bad ones. The ones who suffer from last minute-itus. I understand.

And I agree you can’t afford to upset clients by changing your policies without giving them a chance to change their ways. And without helping them to do so.

Different motivations will work for different clients.

If you are honest, how hard have you really tried to help each individual client to overcome their last minute-itus? And how early in the process do you make clear the benefits to them of them doing things on a more timely basis, as well as the negative consequences of them leaving things until the last minute?

Can you see what that the key change is yet? The key change that can reduce your clients’ last minute-itus?

Put simply, if you want specific clients to do something differently, YOU will need to find an effective incentive for them to do this.

Every accountant with whom I have ever discussed this topic has accepted that they haven’t really tried ‘everything’. They may have tried various ways to get clients to change. But often they didn’t start the ‘new’ communications earlier enough in the process. Or they didn’t follow through effectively. Or they focused only on ‘sticks’ rather than also trying ‘carrots’.

Whatever you do, please remember to keep everything focused on the value to your client. Be clear that it’s more important for them to do things differently because of the impact on them – rather than because it will make your life easier!

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