Tell me if this story sounds familiar…
You have a long time client who is notorious for never responding to emails. Deadlines are approaching and you need action items from them. You send an intentional email… Topped with deadlines and instructions! And then… **crickets.** They completely ghost you, even after follow up emails. You have no idea where they are and the deadline has passed.
Due to lack of response, you are forced to carry out your services and work hours you had not originally intended. You invoice your client appropriately for the time (which is probably higher than discussed initially). When the client receives the invoice, they are surprised and try to argue about pricing. How dare you charge for the extra time??
It’s a stressful situation but… It happens. Unresponsive clients happen, but you can be proactive so that this doesn’t happen again!
Here are 4 ways to deal with unresponsive clients and encourage client success:
- Utilize scheduling software
I love using Calendly. It’s an appointment scheduling tool that saves me time while allowing me to efficiently book meetings with clients. There are tons of other scheduling software available to you. You can view a list of other software here. Using a tool like this allows you to post your available times and dates in a calendar and send the link directly to your client.
They choose a time that works for them without the cumbersome back-and-forth of an email chain. An appointment scheduler gives clients less opportunity to ghost you.
- Be direct and clear in the details in your emails
This is where that communication skill comes in! Make sure you are clear with your clients about pressing items. Your email needs to include expected date of turnaround and step-by-step instructions. If you want to make sure your emails are being understood, you can ask clients to “Once you’ve read this, reply to this email letting me know you got it!”
If your meeting entails larger discussions like Quarterly Planning or action items that require preparation, reach out with an agenda a few days ahead of time. Encourage your clients to read the agenda before your meeting. Provide checklists of information they will need. This will help your client feel more prepared and help you in having an efficient meeting.
- Be proactive and send reminders
If someone reaches out to me, I will respond within a respectable time frame, within 48 business hours. That’s just how I am. Whether it’s personal or professional, I am quick to respond, even if it is just to let someone know I’ll fully respond later.
The fact of the matter is, A LOT of people are not like that. Especially in the tax, legal and finance world. Entrepreneurs in general have so much else going on. You’re running a business, you’re speaking at conferences… I get it, you aren’t thinking about your accountant’s email in your jungle of an inbox.
While I usually cringe at sending any extra emails, reminders are a powerful tool in engaging those forgetful clients. Follow up with your clients 24-48 hours before meetings or action item due dates. This gives clients the chance to ask questions or communicate inabilities to meet the deadline. I’d rather a client reschedule our meeting 24 hours in advance than to be a no-show. For this reason, reminders are not just good for the client, they save you time as well.
This might sound like a lot of work, but thankfully, reminders can be easily automated through client and project management software. I use Canopy, a tax specific client software, but there are a variety of tools available to do this. (I’ll get into that in another email).
- If you have to, let that client go.
Of course, you never hope to get to this point, but sometimes you need to do what is right for you.
Here’s how I look at it: I am genuinely invested in building a relationship with my client. They chose me to support their business and set them up for success. In order for me to provide that value, I need that trust and respect.
At the very least, I expect communication… Even if that’s a client telling me they will not be able to meet a deadline. I don’t need to know what’s going on in their personal life, but I do need to know if they are unable to participate in our business relationship. When those needs are discussed, we are able to work around challenges and deadlines.
I make sure to communicate this openness with my clients. When it is repeatedly ignored, I have to let them go. Constantly asking a client to engage is draining. It plays on my energy and my ability to serve other clients in a positive, motivating way.
At the end of the day, it’s about being responsible. All you can do to set clients up for success is: communicate clear expectations and set reminders. Create a professional relationship with open communication. Do this from the beginning of a new client engagement, stay consistent, and never assume someone “just knows”.