How to Deal with Unresponsive Clients

December 9, 2014

by Teresa Riccobuono

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We have all experienced the situation in which a client, for whatever reason, becomes unresponsive to our calls and emails.

Often times, these unresponsive behaviors come from a previously engaged client. They may start arriving late or frequently rescheduling meetings.  They may respond to calls and emails slowly or fail to send back paperwork your office requested. Without getting into the psychology of why this happens, let’s talk about how to work with these clients.

Here’s the process I use for scheduling client meetings. Implementing a similar approach may help you work with unresponsive clients.

The meeting-scheduling process

Assuming you do not pre-schedule your appointments (which I highly recommend), your client-service associate would run a report to view a list of clients who should be coming in for a meeting the following month.  He or she would check who may already have scheduled or held their meetings.  This associate would also see if there is anything important to be aware of, such as an upcoming birthday for the client or outstanding action items.

You should meet one-on-one with your client-service associate to provide any helpful information for scheduling. It would be important for the client-service associate and the client to know if:

  • You need extra time in this meeting, for example, to cover a complex issue.
  • You offered to go to their home or office to conduct the meeting.
  • You would like to take the client to lunch before or after your meeting.
  • This meeting can be conducted by telephone if the client would prefer.
  • You need the client to bring certain documents which may take time for them to gather.

Once the client-service associate has this information, he or she can begin contacting clients on the list for scheduling.

Most of your clients will be eager, or at least willing, to set an appointment to meet with you.  However, not all clients will respond to the initial requests from your client-service associate.  I encourage them to make at least three attempts before asking you, the advisor, to reach out directly.  Often, the clients will respond to your outreach.  This may be all that is needed to get an unresponsive client to respond.  In the client’s mind, they are in trouble, because now the advisor is calling.  I call this “being sent to the principal’s office.”  In the client’s mind, they are thinking, “I’m in trouble now.  My advisor is calling me personally.”

Unfortunately, not all of your unresponsive clients will respond to the sound of your voice.  They will continue to be unresponsive.  So, what next?

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