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Getting Accounting & Bookkeeping Clients to Adapt

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I’ve heard the argument so many times about how one’s clients are just not ready for this Paperless thing. I can’t even begin to count the whines and protests from practitioners about clients who are unable or unwilling to make such a change.

What a bunch of malarkey! We had an interesting session with a large client about two years ago. The client is not young by any means, has been our client for many years and is very set in her ways.

Each year, we received a box full of documents, neatly stapled and collated together, from seven companies, one box per company. I called the client and asked nicely to have the information without staples. As I laboriously explained to her, it was very difficult and time-consuming to first remove the staples, and then keep the scanner from jamming, even when we did remove them. A simple request I thought.

When she delivered the boxes, she grinned coyly at me and left the box. Shortly thereafter, my PA, who does the scanning, came in and dropped a group of papers on my desk from the box. The papers were stapled, re-stapled and then stapled again. I immediately understood the coy grin. We’d been had! Or so she thought.

So I had my PA spend a huge amount of time removing the staples and attempting to scan the documents with a shriek every few minutes, caroling the fact that the scanner jammed once again. (It was only after she was done that one of my new staff asked, “Why didn’t you just cut the corner off?? Duh! When she was done, I had her make up an invoice for $465, marking it for “staple removing and scanning.” My PA was horrified and guessed the client would be “really upset.”

The client called and laughed. “The invoice is a cute touch,” she giggled. I said, “It is cute, isn’t it.” “When will you pay it?” She said, “What, I have to pay this?” I said, “Yes, that’s how long it took. I could bury it with the rest of the bill, but I thought you should know.” There was silence at the other end.

I’ll tell you what I said. I’ll cancel the bill if you bring in your documents next year without staples. “Ok,” she stammered, “it’s a deal.”

The next year, when it was time for the year-end to land on my doorstep, she called to say that she was coming. “And,” she said, “I am bringing my husband to carry the boxes. You don’t need to come down and assist as you normally do.” Two hours later, she walked in with her husband, without any boxes and a total of two things in her hands. In her left hand, she had a jet drive (she hadn’t figured out our cloud delivery yet … Hopefully, next year). And in the right hand, there was a check for $465 for payment in full. “But, I said I’d cancel the bill if you brought it in without staples. And as it is on this stick, there are no staples.”

She chuckled as only she can. She is one of those people who laughs and it’s contagious. “No way,” she said. “I’m happy to pay. I had to fight those dang blessed staples every document I got. I totally understand your frustration and you deserve the check! Next year, my staff won’t be stapling anything!” She has now proven to be technologically ready!

Lesson: No matter how old you are, clients are ready. Give them the tools, and they will convert. Heck, even my 96-year-old mother-in-law uses her iPad every day. She uses FaceTime a lot, connecting with all her relatives that she would never be able to see. The tools we have are exciting and create special moments!

This article originally appeared on Firm of the Future and was repurposed with permission.

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