Successful accounting firms realize that customer satisfaction is the most important element for an accounting business to prosper. Such firms recognize that highly satisfied customers would go a long way in offering repetitive business. Furthermore, such clients would also help in referring new customers through word-of-mouth sales.
Thus, such firms always consider client relationship as a partnership. Even when the journey with a client may go down an unwanted road to “challenging” position.
Most customers are easy going, calm and receptive of the efforts made by the accounting advisors and consultants. Moreover, they understand the dynamics of the trade. In such a scenario, the clients compensate the accounting consultant or advisor with an amount based on the terms and conditions mutually agreed upon.
However, there are times where accounting firms have to deal with difficult customers. Experts believe that normally, 5 to 10 percent of the customers qualify as difficult. These customers are quite demanding, upset, angry or rude no matter how trivial the issue. At times, such customers can take up much of an accounting business’s time and energy.
Therefore, it is quite important for an accounting professional to know how to distinguish between a client who is:
- truly difficult or demanding but is uncertain for his business;
- challenging but is extremely valuable for his business
So, let us first understand who are difficult customers for an accounting firm before discussing the ways in dealing with difficult customers.
Who Are Difficult Customers?
The term “difficult customers” refer to the set of customers that create undesirable or uncomfortable experiences for a business offering goods or services. These are the customers who take a bothersome habit to an extreme level.
In professions like accounting and law, customers are viewed as demanding or difficult in comparison to the other set of clients. Thus, the term ‘difficult customers’ is quite relative and is seen in terms of the area of accounting one practices or the other set of clients one works for.
Furthermore, the accountant’s experience and skill also determines his capability to deal with challenging customers. Thus, to deal with such customers, you need to know the different types of difficult customers.
Types of Difficult Customers
Following are the different personality types that are difficult to deal with.
Aggressive Personality Type
The customers who are aggressive intend to impose their viewpoints on you and very particular about deadlines. Such customers get angry quite quickly and are often verbally abusive. They usually believe that their demands are superior as compared to the other people.
Know It All
This kind of customer seems to showcase his knowledge about your service in such a way as if he knows everything. In the wake of showcasing such knowledge, such a customer becomes highly critical and arrogant. This type of customer speaks endlessly and always intends to rule the dialogue.
Frequent Complainers are the ones who complain quite often and feel they are being treated unjustly. These customers complain about the pettiest of things.
The indecisive customers are not able to make a decision. They keep on asking questions as they want to ensure that they are buying the right services, at the right price and at the right quality.
Strategies To Dealing With Difficult Customers
It is quite challenging to deal with difficult clients. And the challenge lies in the way we respond to such a demanding behavior.
Usually, when a client is demanding, we get into the fight or flight mode. We respond in the same manner in which the client behaves in first place. We feel attacked and hence give them back by responding in a tough way.
However, this would mean losing the customer forever and earning a bad name for your accounting firm.
Therefore, as an accounting firm, you need to have the skills to tackle tough customers patiently so that you can reach a solution.
So in order to achieve that, following are the various ways you can adopt to deal with difficult customers as an accounting firm.
1. Listen To What Client Says
Clients get angry because they face challenges. These challenges may pertain to:
- delay in offering accounting and auditing services,
- limited knowledge to deal with accounting compliance,
- variance in the quality of services rendered as compared to the one promised,
- change in pricing than what was committed at the beginning of the project
However, there are situations when either the issue is quite trivial or no challenge is posed from your end. Still the client gets frustrated or is disappointed given he has a peculiar personality.
In such a situation, customers expect the accounting advisers to listen to their side of the story patiently. Furthermore, they also expect them to resolve their issues without any delays.
Hence, as an accounting advisor, you should show patience and allow your customers to vent out their frustration. You should listen to such a demanding customer patiently without any interruption.
Such an empathetic behavior on your part would make your customers believe that you value them. Furthermore, they would consider that whatever challenge occurred from your end, you were really concerned about it.
If you argue or try to challenge the customer in such a situation, you lose an opportunity to gain information about the problem at hand. So resist the yearning to argue and instead focus on understanding the problem of your customers.
Ask them questions rather than challenging them. Because the more you question, the better understanding you would have regarding the issue at hand.
This would help you in resolving the problem of your customer. Further, it would go a long way in building a healthy relationship with your client.
2. Acknowledge and Apologize
This is the most important part where many of the accounting consultants falter. When an accounting consultant faces a difficult customer, normally he either starts challenging the customer or makes excuses. He tries to instantly end the dispute in order to ease his distress.
Remember, such behavior can escalate the issue at hand. When customers get frustrated, all they expect from the consultants is an apology.
No matter how trivial the issue is or how hard your accounting firm has worked. Difficult customers expect that you apologize and put things right for them.
So, acknowledge what the disappointed customer says instead of challenging such customers or making excuses.
It is important to show such gratitude because you need to understand that only a small part of customers are demanding. Or end up getting dissatisfied with your services.
However, failing to give acknowledgement would mean giving an open opportunity to such dissatisfied customers to complain about you in front of other people. These people could have been your prospective clients. But now, they would prefer to take accounting services from other accounting firms.
Thus, when difficult customers complain, it as an opportunity to hold on to your customer and resolve his issue. So, acknowledge what your customer says and then apologize for the wrong if any.
But remember, such acknowledgement and apology should come only when you have heard it all.
Do not get impatient in giving apology even before the customer has narrated the instance. As such acknowledgment would not have any impact on the client.
3. Understand The Problem By Asking Questions
The most powerful way to handle challenging customers is to showcase compassion. A positive speech or tone can help in a great way to mellow down the customer’s anger.
Statements like “I can understand your challenge..” or “Thank you for bringing the issue..” can certainly help in calming the aggression of your customer.
Once your customer is calmed down, ask him questions in order to get information regarding the issue at hand. Your very act of questioning the customer would make him believe that you are really concerned about the challenge faced by him.
The questions should be relevant and to the point. Furthermore, you should also explain to them the reasons or the thought process behind asking him such questions.
Also, summarize the points that your client contributes. This would help build faith of your client in you as an accounting consultant.
Furthermore, it will also help them in believing that you understand their problem and would definitely work towards finding solutions.
Frustrated clients want committed accounting consultants. They need someone who would take ownership of the situation and try to fix the problem.
The last thing that they want to hear in such a circumstance is that you would be unable to resolve their issue.
In case, the problem is so challenging that you alone cannot resolve the issue, you can always take the help of other accounting associates.
4. Come Up With Creative Solutions
Since difficult customers behave in an extreme way, they would not hear your explanations or excuses. Even if the challenge at hand is not posed by your accounting firm.
Such customers get so engaged in reasoning out their own challenge that they do not bother about the problems faced by your accounting firm. The challenging customers only want their problem to be resolved.
Thus, as their accounting advisor, you need to understand their challenges and come up with ways to solve them. However, resolving the issue at hand is just not enough for accounting firms.
This is because customers pay accounting firms according to the value they add to the services offered by them. They attach value to the benefits they derive against the price they are willing to pay for the accounting services.
Thus, customers would believe that they have received value from your accounting firm only when the benefits exceed the cost that they pay for the accounting services. So you should go the extra mile by just not restricting yourself to resolving the challenge at hand.
This means you should offer something extra than what is required. For this, you can even involve the customers by asking them what they want or giving them suggestions to choose from.
But do not use negative verbiage that gives a sense that you would not be able to resolve your customer’s challenge.
This would make the customers all the more aggressive and would certainly mean putting your reputation at stake for lifetime.
5. Follow Up
While handling the issues of difficult customers, we generally assume that the customer is satisfied once the challenge he faces gets resolved.
We take customer satisfaction for granted and do not make an effort to check out with the clients again.
Thus, such ignorance on our part makes us believe that our client is happy. Until, the same client faces similar issues in the future and makes a complaint again.
Thus, as an accounting consultant, you need to understand that if things went for a toss once, they can go wrong again. Unless you take steps to improve the way you deliver services to your customers.
Therefore, just resolving the issue of challenging customers is not enough. You need to constantly follow up and ensure that they are satisfied with your services by asking questions.
Such a follow up will make the customers happy and satisfied rather than be demanding all the time.
However, if you do not follow up and continue to assume that the customer is happy, there is a high chance that the demanding customer comes up with another set of complaints.
You should know that good accounting firms ensure that they go way beyond the expectations when it comes to following up clients.
It is quite challenging a task for an accounting firm to deal with difficult customers . The key to dealing with such customers is to listen to their story patiently and use a positive verbiage.
Besides this, accounting firms should make their best effort in understanding the issues of their customers by asking relevant questions. They should not argue and should focus on collecting information so that they can come up with creative solutions.
Lastly, the accounting firms should always follow-up even if they resolve the issues of such challenging customers.