Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Sky Is Falling!

What strikes fear into the mind of the client – and how to relieve it before they run straight for the nearest burning barn


(Part 1 of an ‘Interactive’ article)


People are afraid. Yup, we sure are. The way the news reads, those of us who built our bunkers in the 80’s for the upcoming Russian invasion should be proud (I should be so lucky…)! The end is near, and the people who hid their money in the mattress will be the next Nouveau Riche! (well, this one might be true).

Now… what can we do to put on our blinders, turn away from the hordes of ‘Chicken Little’ wannabes on the TV news, and convince our clients to do the same? We know the truth, and the truth is that if a payroll client takes their payroll back in-house, it won’t save them one thin dime.

At our core, we are all about our gut instincts, and don’t really care for numbers all that much (yes, even accountants). I recently picked up a new book by Daniel Gardner entitled, ‘The Science of Fear’ and strongly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a way to educate their so called ‘intuition’ into having a heart to heart conversation with the other half of their psyche know as ‘reason’. Daniel’s book inspired me to try and relate his, “Science of Fear” to the reaction of clients utilizing a service such as payroll outsourcing during the…

DOOM! DOOM! DOOM!

…‘economic crisis’ we are experiencing today. The memory of watching the movie Ice Age with my kids came to me just now as I cheerfully typed DOOM repeatedly. In particular, the scene that rolled through my mind was when the soon-to-be-extinct dodo birds started chanting, “Doom On You! Doom On You!” to the lovable characters, only to gleefully fall to their deaths as their fear of ‘The End’ came true despite their careful efforts to preserve their species.

We need to figure out how to help our clients avoid extinction as bad only seems to become worse, as our country and the world stumble their way down the muddy path toward what we all hope is the light at the end of the tunnel.

Let’s start by exploring how we nabbed the client in the first place. This might help us to understand what triggers are being pulled in their mind as they begin to panic.

There are a number of reasons that a client came to you to handle their payroll needs. Let’s start a list:


  • A referral from another client? (Yes!!!)

  • Your winning smile?

  • They or ADP or Paychex blew up a tax payment and they had to eat some P&I sandwich?

  • Their payroll person quit or was terminated?

  • They let go the person who was doing it and saved some bucks?

  • …the list goes on


Now that you have a reason fixed in your mind, think about the client who came to you for that reason. Upon their arrival, you made things better for their business, and possibly for their personal life as well (assuming late nights trying to figure out payroll for their employees the Thursday before payday).


With these lovely thoughts circling in our mind, just for argument’s sake, let’s pretend that they are just getting nailed by the economy right now. Sales are down 30% or more... they can’t get the credit they were previously approved for to fund the new expansion (because the FDIC & company chained the doors of their bank)… there is a handwritten list hidden in their files cobbled together one late night in October numbered with who would go first, and why, when the layoffs begin. They are feeling desperate, and are afraid that they might not be able to ride this thing out.


Scary stuff. I just gave myself the chills!


First of all, I pray that this isn’t happening at your practice, and that your clients are calm, collected, and not feeling this kind of pain. Unfortunately, lately, in many cases, the question isn’t will it happen, but when will it happen?


Scared people do silly things, and that includes the consumers who spend their dollars at your client’s place of business – just as your client spends their hard earned dollars on your service.
If the client is truly in trouble, there may not be much you can do, other than to refer them to a good attorney. What we need to concentrate on are those clients who are not in the soup yet, but are watching, getting big-eyed, and becoming very, very afraid.


What we need to think about is how we can preemptively make a move to shore up our relationship with the clients who are in a weak position in this market, but not in imminent danger of failing. What can we do to help them both in terms of keeping their payroll account and thereby protecting them from messy tax implications, overhead, etc. as well as help them shore up their own business practices to weather this storm with us?


I am looking for reconnaissance from the field:

  • What are the classes of vulnerable clients you see out there?
  • Your ideas related to what can be done to both retain the vulnerable client, and help them through this
  • If you are successfully working through this with your clients, what strategies can you share with your peers via this medium?
  • Other insights?
  • I am asking you, the reader for input on these to help me fill in the blanks, but more importantly to help your peers to help their clients.


If you are willing to contribute your knowledge, please send me an email at: lcashwell@adaptasoft.com. If you’d like to remain anonymous, but still contribute, be sure to indicate that in your message.

As I call on payroll practitioners each day, I will be asking them all for their input on this, and will share my findings in Part 2 of this article which will be titled, “The Sky Is Falling! – Strategies From The Trenches (Part 2 of an ‘interactive’ article)”. I hope to, with your help, be privileged to title the third installment, “The Sky Is Falling! – Success Stories From the War On The Economic Downturn”.

If you are kind enough to contribute, with your permission, I would like to attribute your ideas to you and your company. I will be posting a live feed on this topic directly to my blog in the interim between ‘official’ articles.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. If you aren’t my client, this isn’t a sales ploy, and you won’t be solicited during any conversation you open up with me on this topic. Let’s just try to do what we can to help our peers and ourselves through these interesting times.

A printable version of this article will be posted on the right side of the blog tomorrow

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