We have been running an outsourced bookkeeping services firm for almost a decade now, so we have some experience with clients entering and exiting our operations. And in dealing with the transition of clients into our system from other service providers, we have had some really awful experiences.
I have also heard accounting firms say they never lose clients. Congratulations, you are the only accounting firm with zero churn. Additionally, you are probably working with a lot of clients you shouldn't be, simply for a buck. There are plenty of situations where firing a client is good for your business.
All of the negative experiences we have had with disgruntled service providers handing off a client to us led me to write this blog. Here is the proper way to pass a bookkeeping client to a new service provider.
Professionally End The Relationship
The first step is to be professional about the relationship ending. If a client is moving away from your services, they probably have a good reason for doing so. Sometimes they have outgrown your services, but sometimes you may have truly dropped the ball.
The last thing anyone needs during a professional breakup is any negativity or disrespect. This is not the time to insult a client or tell them that you are happy they are leaving. Also, a professional breakup goes both ways; the client and provider should end the relationship in a professional manner.
End all business relationships in a professional manner. Anything negative you want to get off of your chest isn't worth the possible impact to your reputation.
Don't Hold Hostages
I have seen serious questions on LinkedIn asking how much they should charge a customer to get a backup of their accounting data. Seriously? Internally, we joke about this as being "the hostage method."
If my accountant told me there was a fee to switch services, I would be pissed beyond belief. This is unethical and wrong on so many levels.
There is no need to hold any of your clients' data hostage. This goes back to the first point of being professional.
Even if this relationship is not ending in a positive manner, there is no reason to be uncivil with one another. You don't need to be hostile toward your former client or the new service provider. If you are difficult to work with, it will reflect poorly on you and possibly tarnish the reputation of your firm. We have had clients leave us for good reasons and either return to our services with a different business or refer us new business.
Be civil to everyone in the process of passing off a client to maintain a great reputation for your firm.
Help With Follow-Up
There is nothing worse than being snubbed by a former service provider just out of spite. I'm not saying you need to drop everything you are doing to help; however, you should make time.
It is understandable that everyone is busy, but if you can't make 15 minutes in the next few weeks to answer a few simple questions, I don't think that is being very professional.
If you do pass a client off to another service provider and you don't hear from them, I think it is common courtesy to reach out. Just checking in to make sure they have everything they need and that your former client is being taken care of shows that you are a true professional.
Follow up with your former client and the new service provider to make sure the transition is going smoothly and they have everything they need.
Just like when you fire an employee or they quit, you should conduct an exit interview when you are losing a client for whatever reason. During the exit interview with your client, you may get some valuable information that can help you grow your service down the road.
Additionally, interview all of your employees involved with this client, from sales to management to operations. Ask yourselves what you did wrong or what the client did wrong. Have an open discussion with your team so that you can all learn from the situation.
Learn from every client who leaves your service for another provider in order to make the necessary adjustments and make your service better.
Have you ever lost a client or transitioned a client from a competitor?
What did you learn?
Photo Credit: Canva