Thursday, August 18th, 2011

A CPA Slogan: The Client Isn’t Ready!

Be patient with me this morning, I’m going to reflect back on the old days like so many old people do…..

I grew up in public accounting under the stewardship of a highly-professional, disciplined, intelligent, dictator-style managing partner, Luke Ware. Luke “grew-up” in a Big 8 firm and I am just assuming that many of this actions/procedures were developed there. The firm was small then. It ranged from 11 to about 22 people while I was at the firm under his reign.

Client service was the focus, yet the clients were trained. They were trained to be ready when our CPAs arrived for an audit or review. All of the business owners were 1040 clients. They knew when their appointment was each year (yes, they came into the office to meet with the partner/manager) and they brought their organizer and all their documents with them (well, most of their documents).

Notice I said “trained.” We trained our clients via communicating their responsibilities as part of our relationship.

It is the manager’s duty (or the partner) to be sure the client is ready for the auditors when they arrive on the appointed day. It is their duty to be sure the client understands their commitments to the beneficial relationship.

All of this comes to mind because of a blog post by Michelle Golden this week, “Retraining Clients When You’ve Taught Them to Abuse You (aka Preventing Costly Schedule Disruptions.”

She suggests:

  • Give them exact dates
  • Teach them how
  • Provide reminders. Early and Often.
  • Show you’re serious

In our firm, we sent an appointment card with the organizer (the kind they could stick on their refrigerator). These days you can send an appointment invitation via email. We called each 1040 client the day before the 1040 appointment to remind them of the appointment (much like your dentist or eye doctor does now). If they didn’t have “all their stuff,” we told them to come anyway and bring what they did have so we could get started on the return.

As our firm grew, we got away from some of this because of the “time” involved in meeting with the client and the convenience of just having them drop-off or send-in their information. We often use “client service” to hide the fact that we really want less time in the job. Meeting with a client, even just a 1040, face-to-face once a year often opened the door to additional services – that was part of the plan.

What’s your plan? Do you permit clients to sabatogue your schedule?

I have always believed that clients are impressed by a CPA firm that appears very professional, has defined procedures, communicates effectively and is an example of how you run a highly-successful business.

  • "I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'"
  • Muhammad Ali

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