They keep you up at night and make your job 10x more difficult. And you probably know them by name. Ask any accountant and they likely could rattle off a list of clients they just KNOW will wait until the very last second to get them the info or source documents needed to meet the upcoming deadline. Heck, it probably started with difficulty gathering onboarding information from the get-go.
And while it may be nearly impossible to completely eliminate those last-minute submissions—because let’s face it, humans like to procrastinate!—there are a few things you can do to dramatically cut the number of clients who make you crazy with their tardiness.
How can accountants put an end to client procrastination and gather information quickly?
1. Make it as easy as possible
Everyone procrastinates from time to time, and your clients are no different. One of the main reasons people procrastinate is because the work seems daunting or time consuming. This means that making a task as easy as possible for your clients can be the difference between receiving information early on in the process or at the very last minute.
One of the best ways to make life easier for your clients is through use of a client portal. A client portal allows clients to upload documents or send messages any time they want. If they finally remember that they need to send you a document and it’s the middle of the night or the weekend, it won’t matter. They can take care of it when it’s convenient for them.
Another way to make it easier on your clients is by using fillable pdfs. With fillable pdfs, clients no longer need to download, complete, save, re-upload and so on all of those documents. The ease of fillable pdfs make it more likely that clients will get you the information you need quickly.
2: Set up an automated reminder (or two or three or four…)
We all need a reminder from time to time. Whether you are trying to gather initial accounting client onboarding information or important source documents, a reminder will go a long way. A piece of advice here—don’t be afraid to be a bit annoying. While studies show us that reminders DO work, you may need to send more than you’d think for certain clients. According to one study, 37% of clients will respond immediately after you request information from them. That number jumps to 55% after your first follow-up reminder and 68% after two reminders. Those numbers continue to trickle in with each additional reminder, with some clients needing as many as five or six before they respond.
You obviously don’t have time to be calling or emailing each of these clients one by one. Fortunately, this is where technology comes in. You can set up email reminders to be automated and sent out without you lifting a finger in most accounting practice management platforms.
(Side note: Are you a Canopy customer? Want to find out more best practices? Be sure to check out our library of best practices and trainings here).
3. Send customized tax organizers in bulk
The most efficient accounting firms send out yearly organizers to gather updated information from their clients. A client organizer is a one-step process that automatically generates tax questions based on the form you wish to file. You can also attach any relevant documents of files directly to the organizer for easy access. You can take your organizer up another notch by doing bulk sends. When you have a customizable organizer, you can send different groups of clients different organizers depending on their unique situation.
4. Be proactive
A great way to avoid last-minute submissions is to set expectations from the get-go. The more proactive you are with setting expectations, the less your clients will try to get away with poor behavior. In addition, as part of your onboarding, find out how each client prefers to be contacted. This could be by phone call, email, text message, or even the old snail mail! A lot of time can be wasted trying to contact a client in a way they’ll never respond to.
Finally, reach out BEFORE a deadline is near. If you send a newsletter, be sure to gently nudge clients to start gathering information a month or so before you need it. You can also make phone calls or send text messages to those perpetually late clients to get things moving a bit faster. Again, try to reach out in the way each client prefers. This will greatly increase the chance that they will respond promptly.
How have you been able to encourage your clients to send documents in on time? Let us know in the comments below.