How to Get Your Clients to Do What You Want

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How to Get Your Clients to Do What You Want
October 16, 2014

By Jen Cook

In our latest webinar, we determined that only 3% of tax pros were 100% satisfied by the way their clients act. The other 97% admitted that they have several clients who don’t behave properly – disobedient clients.

Obedient clients will allow you to operate with order. Order creates peace, and peace reduces stress. Anything that reduces stress creates a better day – for everyone.

We’ve all seen a disobedient client before. And if you’ve never noticed what classifies a disobedient client, here are 7 signs to help you identify one:

1.    They don’t comply with your requests.

Ever ask a client to send you a document so you can file their return, and they do it “when they get around to it” – aka, a week later?

Some clients inexplicably don’t care about their taxes as much as you do. So they don’t adhere to your advice or requests.

2.    They complain about your billing.

“Your fee is too high.”

If you hear this from a client, ask them why they think the price is too high. Chances are, they won’t have a real answer for you.

Clients who complain about pricing don’t see your real value. That could be on the client, or that could be on you.

*Side note: Do really know if you have the right pricing model? Check out our eGuide, How to Find Your Value, to figure out how much you should be charging.

3.    They don’t pay their bill on time (if at all).

This is pretty straightforward. There is a plethora of excuses clients use for not paying their bill. I misplaced it, I don’t understand it, I didn’t think it would be this high.

There are too many clients who ignore their bill until you realize they haven’t paid, and are forced to harass them for it.

4.    They set unrealistic deadlines & expectations.

Some clients take advantage of what you’re capable of as their “trusted advisor,” and they’ll try and transform you from trusted advisor to miracle worker.

Sometimes there’s just not enough time in your busy schedule to drop everything and cater to a client who waited until the very last minute to meet a deadline.

5.    They don’t respect your boundaries.

It’s too often I use the phrase, “if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

This definitely applies to clients who call you at all hours of the day and night. These clients consider you more of a servant than a tax professional, and have no respect for your personal boundaries.

6.    They get abusive.

Clients who exhibit aggressive behavior, mistreating or disrespecting your staff, they should be dealt with immediately.

Oh, and there are plenty of respectful clients who would take their place.

7.    They show up to their appointments late and unorganized.

This circles back to the clients who don’t take you (or their taxes) seriously.

Your clients should recognize your value, and in return, respect your time and consideration. While showing up late wastes your time, it can sometimes be excusable. But showing up unorganized isn’t excusable. It’s an easy way to lose important information, and it forces you to spend your time dealing with what should have been dealt with by your client before the appointment.

Again, wasting time and energy that you probably don’t have to spare.

This brings us to the question: How did disobedient clients get that way?

Well, they most likely bear no malice, and it may not be their fault. Here are some reasons a client might not behave the way you want them to.

‐      Lack of training.

If you don’t train your clients to behave in a certain way, you’re preparing yourself for an unsatisfactory relationship.

‐      Lifestyle changes.

We all know... life happens. That’s why we sometimes give extra lenience toward clients who go through tough times, and we don’t enforce our boundaries.

‐      Too many clients, not enough time.

Our lives are busy, and having a client requires making time to properly care for it. It’s a big responsibility.

If you have too many clients, you won’t be able to fulfill each and all of their needs. This will result in unhappy clients, and an unhappy client is likely to act out.

‐      “Strays and rescues.”

People who find clients “on the street” often take them in on an emergency or temporary basis. When this happens, boundaries and rules can go out the window.

So, how do you get obedience?

Here are 4 steps to getting your clients to behave.

1.    Accept that training is necessary and required.

None of us come into the world as socially adept, functioning members of society. We all need to be trained.

And you need to accept your role as your clients’ trainer. Because it’s your practice, the standards, expectations and rules are yours. Therefore, the responsibility of training is on you.

2.    Be a role model.

Remember that you and your staff need to model the behavior you want your clients to display. By not demonstrating those same behaviors, you’re invalidating the rules for your clients.

3.    Explain your boundaries.

This is the key to getting your clients to understand how you want them to act. You need to clearly explain your boundaries in a Mutual Commitments Agreement.

In this agreement, you and your clients are making a commitment to play by certain rules, in order to set clear expectations.

You can start by filling out a Mutual Commitments Worksheet.

This worksheet will be a roadmap for creating your Mutual Commitments Agreement.

Once you’ve filled out the worksheet, you can translate it into your Mutual Commitments Agreement. Here’s a sample.

4.    Get your relationships right from the start.

The way you begin your relationship with your clients will dictate the way the relationship goes.

New clients are the easiest to implement your new system with, because they don’t know any differently.

Which brings me to my next point...

What about your existing clients?

Well, depending on how different the new rules are from the existing rules you had, your current clients will probably have to learn a new way to operate with you and your office.

You’ll have to sell the new change to your clients. You can do this by identifying and communicating the benefits of the change.

  • How it will save them money?
  • How will it save them time?
  • How will it get them more?

Then, you’ll have to implement systems to introduce this change to them. Here are the steps you should take:

  1. Email all of your existing clients an announcement introducing the change. Include your Mutual Commitments Agreement in the announcement, including action steps your client might need to take.
  2. Post your Mutual Commitments Agreement on your website, so both existing and potential clients can see your expectations.
  3. Post your Mutual Commitments Agreement in your office.
  4. Include your Mutual Commitments Agreement in your appointment confirmation emails,  with verbiage discussing the change.
  5. Discuss the change in every client conversation.

You should now have your rules set in stone, and they should be engrained throughout your brand. In your ads, your social media, your website, etc.

For a more in-depth conversation about getting your clients to behave the way you want, watch our webinar, Client Obedience Training – where our co-founder Chris (a 33-year tax pro himself) discusses best practices for client obedience training.


About Jen Cook Jen is the ambassador of visual execution for SmartCenter. When she's not designing, she's painting, or most likely indulging in good food. Follow Jen on Twitter - @jenncookk