Do you find yourself answering questions from the same clients who just keep calling and e-mailing, calling and e-mailing? Over and over, with questions you either answered three times already or that anybody with common sense could see are unrelated to their tax situation?
“Last Tuesday, I told a client that he calls me more than my mother does,” said Enrolled Agent Terri Ryman of Southwest Tax & Accounting, in Elkhart, Kan. “After a shocked silence, he finally chuckled and agreed that maybe calling me every day was a bit excessive. I haven’t heard from him since.”
Your question, as the season’s clock ticks down: Do you blow them off for now, fire them or answer everything no matter how long you must talk?
Pains in the
“Depending on the relationship: Some I tell that they’re taking advantage of my unlimited’ phone calls or e-mails policy,” said Jeffrey Schneider, an EA in Port St. Lucie, Fla. “I then send them an invoice and [on it] say PITA charge.’ They then call me to see if I’m serious and I say, Yes, if you keep doing this.’”
“If the client has no sense of humor (and I have plenty of those), I tell them nicely that I’ll have to start charging for calls over one a month,” Schneider added. “That stops them. I’ve also fired my extreme PITAs.”
“My clients know that if they bug me, they go to the bottom of the stack. And that stack grows more each day,” said Helen O’Planick, an EA at HELJAN Associates in Manchester, Pa.
Dealing with a frequent caller or e-mailer can depend on what the client wants. In Ryman’s office, a client who continually calls about a refund, for example, first gets referred to the IRS.gov “Where’s My Refund” option. “If they’re continually calling because I haven’t finished their return, I calmly explain that the more times clients call, the less time I have to process returns,” Ryman added.
Javis Financial Services likewise refers refund-question clients to IRS.gov, “But during this time of season, our staff patiently answers each and every client’s questions no matter how many times they may call,” said Christopher Javis, operations manager for the Columbia, S.C., firm. “This time of the season, repeat calls are common because most people are seeking for the best return for the best price.”
“I schedule a finish date and tell them not to call me until then,” said EA Martha Nest of Westview Tax Services in Bardstown, Ky. “Some just don’t get it and I tend to not return the call too soon. I also recommend that if they have a simple return, maybe they should go elsewhere. Those are also usually the [clients] who are a pain.”
Above all, set your office up right and remain optimistic that your hard work at weeding out pests will pay off someday. “I work alone out of a home office. My answering machine is my secretary,” noted preparer Robert Flach, writer of The Wandering Tax Pro blog. “I only pick up the phone and talk to a client if I want to. My clients have been with me many years and have been well trained over those years. Any client who made a constant pest of himself has been dropped.”
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