Can you hear me now?
Communicating with your accounting clients can sometimes be a chore. They’re demanding. They ask a lot of questions. They take up your time. They oftentimes feel like a roadblock to the rest of your day. But the reality is that you are their lifeline to the ultimate goal of their business: revenue and income.
People strongly prefer to do business with people they know. People they trust. That means we have to connect with the client. Um. Yeah. That sounds really simple, right? It sounds like a no-brainer. Clients really want to do business with a company or CPA that connects with them, personally.
Here are a few, simple ideas that you can incorporate that will nurture that relationship and keep clients happy, coming back for more, and referring others to you.
1: Be Human
Get to know your clients on a personal basis. You should be “genuinely interested in [their] success,” notes Bernadette L. Harris, a Tax and Forensic Accountant with By The Book Accounting. According to her, developing a human interest in them will not only keep existing clients happy, it’ll help to attract new clients.
Have a real conversation with people, both established and prospective clients. Ask them questions and really listen to their answers. They’ll appreciate the attention and know that you’re being genuine. This will give you an opportunity to dispel any misconceptions they may have and find out if your services really are a fit for them. Be honest about what you can and can’t do for them.
2: Be a Guide and Adviser – Not Just a Number-Cruncher
In a survey of small businesses by Wasp Barcode, participants ranked their professionals in order of importance to their business. Accountants ranked number one. That’s above attorney, banker, insurance agent, technology firm, and staffing service. But when asked what bothered them most about their accountant, the list included some pretty serious offenses:
- Being reactive rather than proactive
- Lack of guidance
- Failure to provide advice
- Failure to educate the business owner
Most of these pertain to how well we do or don’t nurture the client relationship. Seems like if a client isn’t happy with the most important professional relationship for their business, you can’t really blame them for jumping ship and going with a different bookkeeping firm. They want more from their accountant than just someone who can crunch numbers.
You see the inner workings of your clients’ businesses; an insider’s view of issues and problems that may impact their finances and profitability. Have conversations with them about their goals; not just the short-term goals, but the longer-term goals, as well. Use your experience and knowledge to guide them toward achieving those goals.
3: Become Tech Savvy
Your clients are in this to make a living. They’re looking to increase their profitability and revenue. They look to you to provide sound financial advice. In today’s all-in-one instant gratification world, you would be indispensable if you could not just advise them on their bottom line, but make their lives easier in the process. There are a host of accounting apps out there designed for small business owners.
Learn your way around some of these apps and do your clients (and yourself) a big favor by recommending ones appropriate for their needs.
4: Communicate Clearly
You’re working for your client. They’re worried about their business. As much as communicating can seem like a burden, it’s vitally important to keep in touch with your clients. That’s pertinent, even when you’re not actively doing any work for them at the moment. They appreciate knowing they’re on your radar. Don’t avoid them. If they call, make every effort to take their call. Respond and reply as quickly as possible to communications. Making your clients feel as though they are your only client builds goodwill that translates to great referrals!
Make sure you ask them which method of communication works best for them: phone, email, text, PM. Be sure to use it to the best of your ability.
Save the accounting industry jargon for the office. Most laypeople are intimidated by accounting-speak. Harris recommends speaking plain English in all conversations with clients. “They already know that you are smart,” she says. Because you’re speaking plainly and at their level, you’ll improve your clients’ trust in you.
5: Ask for a Performance Review
One of the most effective yet underutilized marketing tools for professional service firms are surveys. When you request feedback, it shows that you value your clients’ opinions and allows you to identify and fix problem areas you may not have seen or been aware of. According to Becca Fieler, Marketing Manager in the Tax & Accounting division of Thomson Reuters, “it is critical that you know what your prospects, clients, employees think about every aspect of your business, so that you can respond, manage, promote, plan, reward and achieve.” She notes that “requesting feedback is also a compelling and interactive way to stay top of mind with your clients and prospects.”