Six tips for saving a client relationship

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The syndic’s column

Sooner or later, we all have to deal with a strained client relationship. Sometimes the situation escalates, to the point where the client submits an application for conciliation to the Order’s syndic. By then, it’s usually too late: the trust is broken, and you have lost the client.

What can jeopardize a client relationship 

A client can be dissatisfied for several reasons: 

  • The professional did not provide a fee estimate at the initial meeting. We often hear clients say, “If only I’d known from the beginning.” 
  • The professional provided a fee estimate, but unforeseen events led to a higher invoice, which was sent to the client without any explanations. 
  • The client kept making additional requests to the professional, who in turn failed to inform the client of the impact on the statement of fees. 
  • The client is dissatisfied with the quality of services rendered.
  • The client thinks the invoice is too high, given that the agreed-upon timetable was greatly exceeded, or that another CPA charges less. 

How to save a client relationship

In most cases, the problems could have been avoided if the professional had followed a few simple rules. 

1. Don’t hide
Ignoring the problem will not miraculously make it go away. At best, this approach sends a clear message that the relationship with your client is over. 

2. Meet with your clients
Sometimes a face-to-face discussion, instead of by phone or email, is the only way to have an honest conversation with a client and ensure mutual understanding. 

3. Listen to your clients
If your clients express concerns, answer their questions and try to offer assistance. 

4. Follow up
Follow up more than necessary. Let the client know what steps you took to rectify the situation. 

5. Provide a fee estimate
Learn how to sell your services and fees. Be transparent about your hourly rate and bill your clients regularly. Explain the services rendered by providing a breakdown on your invoices. 

6. Meet your deadlines
Provide a realistic estimate of the hours required to complete the work, taking account of your abilities and other clients. Meet or, when possible, beat the deadline. 

Most of all, remember to manage your clients’ expectations. Be clear, do what you say and say what you do.