5 Types of Problem Clients

Problem clients: every firm has them. How you deal with them is a different story. Identifying problem clients is the first step to improving your client relationships. But you don’t always have to fire a bad client. Here’s how you can differentiate the bad from the worse.

The Jerk

Frequently rude and disrespectful of your time, this client is probably not worth the headache. Even one client like this can poison your staff’s morale. If you can’t convince The Jerk to be respectful to your staff, terminating the relationship could be necessary. After all, replacing bad clients can be difficult, but replacing unhappy staff can be much harder.

The Side-Stepper

Ever had the feeling a client was withholding information? These clients are thankfully rare, but if you suspect a client is trying to do something unethical, keeping them on is big liability. Evasive clients can be frustrating for staff, and it probably doesn’t need to be said, but unethical clients can harm your firm’s reputation. The risk to your firm is not worth whatever revenue the client brings in.

The Basket Case

Some clients are so disorganized that your staff may spend many valuable hours just sorting through the mess. Of course, this type of client will rarely pay you for the time spend untangling their finances. These clients are especially troubling when you only see them once or twice a year. However, they are great candidates for additional services, like consulting to clean up a bookkeeping system or outsourced CFO service.

The Ghost

You won’t see this client until just before the deadline. That’s when they’ll swoop in out of nowhere, leaving your staff with very little time to complete the work. If you can get your more attentive clients to provide their information early, you may have time to work on these procrastinators. However, if not, you’ll have to decide if you want to work through the night to complete the work, or put them on extension and make them wait.

The Distraction

This client is easy to please and takes very little time to serve. But they also contribute very little to your firm’s bottom line and may even take your staff away from more profitable clients. If you have simple 1040 clients that you see just one time a year, consider what other types of services might help them. These clients may not even be aware of how your firm can help.

Dealing with problem clients comes with the job, but there are ways to save these relationships. Download our whitepaper, “Focus on the Client: Developing a Client-Centered Firm” today to learn how.


Aimee Hall

Product Marketing Manager at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting

All stories by: Aimee Hall

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