Poor customer service is acceptable – apparently!


This week I have been pulling my hair out. I heard about the owner of a small business who was pleading for people to refer an excellent bookkeeper in Pietermaritzburg. I called him and we arranged to meet 24 hours later to discuss the bookkeeping services that Assured Bookkeeping Solutions offers. When we met, the business owner’s attitude had changed. He explained that he had thrown his toys out of his pram (I love that expression!) in order to get his existing bookkeeper’s attention and to hopefully get some good service from them.

Our meeting went very well and I view all one-on-one time with a business owner as valuable time, so please don’t think that my frustration is due to ‘a wasted hour of my time’ or ‘having to drive across town’ because it is not true. My frustration is simple – this is another example that I have encountered of business owners accepting mediocre bookkeeping standards from outsourced bookkeepers when they are fully aware that the service that they are receiving is poor. Maybe surprisingly, I have seen this with business owners that do not see bookkeeping simply as a necessary evil to keep the tax man happy and who know that their monthly management accounts provide valuable information with which they can manage their business.

Some reasons that I have heard for the acceptance of poor bookkeeping are:

1. “At first they were good, so maybe if I complain their service will improve.”

2. “I feel a sense of loyalty to them. I have been with them for years.”

3. “She’s a friend / family member.”

4. “Better the devil you know.”

5. “Maybe I am exaggerating; after all they are the financial experts, not me.”

6. “They are busy – I know that they have taken on lots of new clients recently”

Sorry, but none of the above are valid reasons because there aren’t any valid reasons! Once you are aware that your bookkeeper is letting you down, change them immediately, no second chances! And yes, this applies to our clients too. We treat clients as we would expect to be treated as clients, hence our business values of quality, integrity and reliability, and so if we fail to deliver consistently high service levels, our clients should leave us too.

Business Partners state that 46% of South African businesses that fail each year do so due to poor bookkeeping. So why would you want to accept poor bookkeeping and allow your business to become part of that statistic? Your business is far too valuable to you give a second chance. What good are second chances if, as a result of poor bookkeeping, your business has severe cash flow problems, or it fails to comply with VAT regulations and is found out? YOUR business will be on the line, not your bookkeeper’s business. And you’ll really be kicking yourself because YOU KNEW that they were letting you down.

Based on my personal experience, I predict that this particular business owner will get 1 month, perhaps 2 months, of good service out of their bookkeeper and then the service levels will drop again and he will finally change his bookkeeper. I just hope that giving the bookkeeper a second chance will not cause too much damage to his business before he makes the change – whether it is to us or another bookkeeper.

On a similar theme, last week I visited a small business as a consumer. The office manager saw my name badge, realised that I was from a bookkeeping business, and made an appointment for me with the business owner. The owner’s major bookkeeping frustration is that when she goes to the bank for her annual review, she is “always” sent home by the bank with the message “Tell your bookkeeper to get their financials right and come back again” (no I am not joking). Thankfully, this chance meeting has resulted in us being able to help her, starting next month. She just doesn’t know how much we are going to help – yet!

Thanks for your time! Ian Blackburn

About Assured Bookkeeping (Pty) Ltd

Providers of bookkeeping & payroll services, accounting and tax services
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