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ETax847

Setting Tax Appointments - Best Practices

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Any advice on how I can make tax season work better.  In years past, I have set clients' tax appointment dates to come in or upload their documents to the Client Portal and they don't keep these appointment dates I set or bother calling to reschedule until they are ready to come in.  In other years I have put the language, "please call to schedule your appointment" and that hasn't worked either.  

Any advice from those that have a tax season that flows as expected, and if so, what have you found to be most effective? Thanks!

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"If you fail to make your appointment, without rescheduling at least 24 hours in advance, there will be a $25 charge."

This has reduced no-shows by 60%.  The other no-shows get the charge added when they do show up or billed if they choose not to come in at all.

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I don't work out of an office (except home office) or have employees, but my wife helps me with appointments, printing, mailing, etc.

My recommendation (whether others agree or not) is to let the client make the contact.  Even rogues like myself consider being professional to the extent that doctors and lawyers don't call customers to initiate contact.  Then why should we?

They have to call, and my wife makes the appointment.  If they are successful in reaching me, they always ask one of their classic "simple" questions, which turns out to be "I sold half my land on a like-kind exchange and installment sale, and the rest of the land has been placed in a generation-skipping trust"... This assures that the appointment is made quickly and such topics are reserved for the appointment.  If they find me at home and insist on speaking with me, they go on the clock.

Also, I don't make appointments by e-mail.  I use e-mail extensively but not for making appointments because responses can drag out for 3-4 days and in the meantime someone else may be competing for the same date.

If an appointment is not kept by the client, he automatically has to wait 3 weeks.  No exceptions unless it is my fault or circumstances known to be extenuating.  If this causes an extension to be filed, then so be it.  If they do not keep the second appointment, they are fired.

ETax, it sounds like you are trying to reach out to your customers and are not appreciated for it.  I believe if you let them make the appointment you won't have the problems you're describing.  I am not draconian as it seems above, because they've become used to it.  I retain 95% of my clientele every year, and rarely lose anyone unless death, divorce, moving, etc.

 

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Anyone who anticipates remaining in this business for many years should think seriously about the ages of their current and prospective clients, and adapt to their means of communication.   It's going to be difficult to grow in the coming years unless the preparer utilizes texting, online methods, and email.  It still surprises me to see that even much of the older generation has gravitated to text and email communications.  And except in very rare cases, it's virtually impossible to communicate with any person under 35 in any manner other than electronically.  So a practitioner who ignores this trend can most likely expect to see their client base shrink in the future.  That's OK if the business plan is a glide path toward retirement, but it's not a formula for growth. 

As an aside, I can't imaging charging for a missed appointment.  I always have enough work on my desk to occupy me whether a particular client shows up or not.  If they miss an appointment, we can reschedule.  Charging for missed appointments may be a good short-term ego boost, but it's seriously bad for goodwill. It's a sure fire way to drive a wedge (or maybe a stake) in the client relationship

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5 minutes ago, JohnH said:

As an aside, I can't imaging charging for a missed appointment.  I always have enough work on my desk to occupy me whether a particular client shows up or not.  If they miss an appointment, we can reschedule.  Charging for missed appointments may be a good short-term ego boost, but it's seriously bad for goodwill. It's a sure fire way to drive a wedge in the client relationship

How about that client that is a no-show 3 times in the same year?

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24 minutes ago, Jack from Ohio said:

How about that client that is a no-show 3 times in the same year?

ALL my bills start with relatively high per-form charges (that the client does NOT see).  If they are a PITA, they don't get a discount (or near so big a discount), and on rare occasion I will add a "document processing fee" or "return re-calculation fee" (this latter if someone comes in with enough new material to make me re-do a completed return - very rare, but it has happened).  But not specifically a "missed appointment" fee - because in my book, missed appointments are "found time" (unless I made special provisions for someone), and I find it more of a PITA to have to keep hounding someone for the stock basis info on insurance on their rental house or... the list is nearly endless, and we could all fill it in.

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40 minutes ago, Jack from Ohio said:

How about that client that is a no-show 3 times in the same year?

Doesn't make any difference to me - I still have plenty to do. A missed appointment is never time wasted in an efficient office.

As for the rest of the answer, I'll just say read Catherine's response.  Good business practice isn't found in policies and procedures - it lies in the ability to make wise distinctions.

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I try to avoid appointments and prefer either scanned or mailed docs.  Sitting there listening to all the non tax stuff while they cough and wheeze with the flu, using my bathroom and leaving a mess, bringing the kids who climb my curtains and interrupt every 5 seconds....it’s a gross waste of time. And I have to change out of my comfy jammies and wear shoes.  :*

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I wish that I could get away without appointments for drop-off. I do have more that are willing to do drop-off, which I love. I still have too many people that insist on going over every little thing. I am going to use my husband much sooner this tax season for pick-ups. He saves me a bunch of time and most of them love to chat with him about his garden and stuff. 

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I use my semi-retired hubby for pick-ups and deliveries.  He schmoozes my clients when I'm too busy.  I have a large mail slot in my front door.  And, FileShare on my website.

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I will reschedule 1 missed appointment (stuff happens, I get it).  The second time, I will not schedule them.  They can drop in during my office hours and wait for me to have time to get to them.  It usually ends up they mail or drop off or I never see them again.  I really don't care by that point.   If you don't value our time together, then I don't need you as a client.  I know that sounds like I am being harsh, and I do need my clients, but if you stiff me twice, I lose respect for you and you get my very professional demeanor when you come in.

Tom
Modesto, CA

 

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