Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Show The Love

IMG_6788“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” – Voltaire

Sometimes just after busy season you might think you have seen enough of clients for a while. You are wrong about that!

So many times I have heard clients say they wish their CPA was more proactive. What kind of Action Plan do you have in place to continually communicate with clients?

I think it falls under the “this is how we do it here” category.

  • We take new hires along to client meetings.
  • We expect every person in the firm to have a role in marketing.
  • We provide continual performance feedback to our employees.
  • We close the office on Fridays in the summer.
  • We acknowledge every team members birthday.
  • We have a client service plan for “A” clients and a different one for “B” clients.
  • We send our clients a birthday card.
  • We thank our clients in different ways for simply trusting us as their financial and business advisor.

Should any of these “this is how we do it here” bullets apply to your firm? What else can you add?

Yesterday, I received some free drink coupons from Southwest. They remembered to thank me. It made me smile. Do you think Southwest has more customers than you do? You could certainly do some little expected things to show your clients that you appreciate them.

  • As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
  • John F. Kennedy

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

International Education

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” – Confucius

It has been my observation that even the smallest of CPA firms not only have interactions with international businesses on behalf of their clients but are also doing work directly for international clients.

Do your youngest team members know the basics about the international cultures of the people they may need to talk to on the phone, or meet in person? Do your experienced team members know? Does your partner group even know?

Maybe you won’t ever meet them in person but you may have frequent video conferences with them. What should you say and not say? What part of your body language might be offensive to a different culture?

My point today? Get some training for ALL you people on dealing with people internationally. You can probably find someone locally. Seek out help from your local Chamber of Commerce.

 

  • One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.
  • Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

The CPA Profession – Random Thoughts

CiMQnxpUYAAOWhzYesterday, I had the honor of being part of a panel at the OSCPA Business Excellence Symposium in Westlake, Ohio.  Katie Tolan, Peter Donato and I discussed “Harnessing Business Growth Potential.” The panel was moderated by Gary Hunt, Senior Content Editor at OSCPA.

Overall, the Symposium was informational and inspirational. What more can you ask for?!

As always, I enjoyed AICPA President and Chief Executive Officer Barry Melancon’s comments and his dialogue with OSCPA President & CEO Scott Wiley.

IMG_6756Here are some bullet point highlights:

  • In this day and age, people don’t trust. They don’t trust government officials, employers, the media, politicians and so on. The CPA owns the trust space. (I urge you to keep this at top of mind as your move through your work day and your career. It is a responsibility and quite an honor.)
  • Audit and tax services, in the future will change dramatically. In the audit area, the national firms are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in big data. How about using drones for inventory observation? How about performing an audit without ever touching the clients “papers” or even visiting their site? How will smaller firms (any firm below the Big 4) keep up? It will take a huge investment.
  • Everyone must evolve. This applies to the AICPA, as well. Their venture with CIMA will enable the AICPA to create a different footprint and help CPAs build a global force and voice that will carry more weight.
  • When asked what accounting students need as they move into the future, Melancon replied, “Students need data analytic skills.”
  • Today we are a profession of CPA-led firms, not CPA firms. Two-thirds of the employees in all firms are non-CPAs. I found this stat to be quite eye-opening. Clients need all kinds of services to help their businesses grow and prosper, not just what a licensed CPA can provide. Many of you are already providing pension administration, M&A consulting, employee benefits, HR consulting, technology services and so on.
  • We are in the global age. Younger people want experience worldwide whether it be studying abroad or working abroad. Big companies want people whose skills can apply worldwide. Even very small firms need people who can interact internationally because their clients have international relationships.
  • If you don't drive your business, you will be driven out of business.
  • B. C. Forbes

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

How Many Times Have You Talked About “Added Value?”

“The more you become proficient at stating value in terms of the customer, the more it will be perceived as value by the customer.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

I have mentioned it before but not recently. I enjoy reading blogs and articles by Jeffrey Gitomer. Sure, he’s a sales guy. But so are YOU Mr./Ms. CPA!

Much like Mr. Gitomer, I am very tired of listening to CPAs discuss how to prove to their clients that they bring “added value.” Gitomer says, “I recommend you leave ‘added value’ out of your sales lexicon forever. ‘Added value’ has an evil twin ‘value add.” Neither of which can be defined in terms of what the customer actually benefits or profits from.”

If you think the little extra things you do bring added value, put “perceived” in front of it because it is all about what the client perceives. If they don’t perceive it to be valuable, then it isn’t. Preparing their tax return in a timely manner is not value added, it’s what they pay you to do.

Your clients are looking for THEIR own increased sales, customer loyalty, employee loyalty, increased productivity, profit and so on. If you are not bringing these kinds of things to the relationship maybe it’s time you did.

To paint a true picture for your clients, develop a value proposition and a value statement the clearly explains how you help others.

I bring value to my clients by writing this daily blog, writing my newsletter, sending them personal emails outlining current trends in the profession, recapping content of conferences I attend, tweeting daily about CPA profession leadership issues, personal telephone conferences and many other ways.

Read much more here from Gitomer about value and it’s importance to existing clients and to prospective clients.

  • A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.
  • Charles Darwin

Monday, April 25th, 2016

Satisfaction Guaranteed

Most progressive CPA firms guarantee their work. Do You?

Firms are including a guarantee in the engagement letter or proposal.

Here’s what I put in my own Engagement Agreements:

Service Guarantee and Confidentiality

Rita Keller’s services are unconditionally guaranteed. If the services do not meet your expectation, you may end the arrangement and pay only the value you deem acceptable. Confidentiality is extremely important. While Keller may serve other CPA firms in your market, absolutely no information about your firm will ever be discussed or disclosed. If I discover a best practice during my association with your firm, I may request permission to feature you and/or your firm on my blog.

 
Sometimes these guarantees are structured in the form of a Commitment Statement to the client that includes things like:

  • You will be respected and never taken for granted.
  • We absolutely respect the confidentiality of our working relationship with you.
  • We will return phone calls and answer email within 24 hours.
  • …. and so on.

Some even include asking the client for some commitments as a second part of the statement, such as:

  • You will give us all the information we need to complete the assignment.
  • You will meet mutually agreed upon deadlines. In the case of circumstances beyond your control, you will notify us immediately of the situation.
  • You will pay our fees per our engagement letter.
  • … and so on.

Just something you might consider for your firm. It makes a bold and important statement to your clients.

Here’s a sample of a Client Commitment Statement.

  • The best way to guarantee a loss is to quit.
  • Morgan Freeman

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

Do You Have Any Of These Bad Habits That Make You Less Productive?

“It takes less time to do a thing right than to explain why you did it wrong.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

After you read this post, I bet you will answer “yes” to the question in the title, above!

We all get side-tracked during our workday. We intend to read emails for just 30 minutes and then an hour goes by.

I’m just giving you an overview of the 12 bad habits with a twist for accountants. I read the full article via HubSpot by Lindsay Kolowich. Be sure you follow the link and read the entire article.

#1 – Rushing in the morning. – Get to work early. Don’t bring your breakfast to eat in the office. In so many accounting offices I hear of people who might arrive at 8:00 but don’t actually do any work until 9:00!

#2 – Skipping breakfast. – Remember how your Mom said breakfast was the most important meal of the day. Eat a healthy breakfast and you will feel better all day.

#3 – Tackling the easy stuff first. – You are at your best in the morning. Tackle the tough stuff first.

#4 – Checking and responding to emails as they come in. – I’ve lectured you enough about this topic.

#5 – Checking Twitter, Facebook, and your other social feeds. – Turn off various notifications, etc. Stay focused on the task at hand.

#6 – Keeping your phone with you at work.Read the entire article to find out why interruptions can truly hurt your accuracy and productivity.

#7 thru #12Read more here.

You do work that needs intense attention to detail. It is important work and you are dealing with your clients’ financial affairs. That’s a big responsibility.

Client service means many things including being focused, accurate and efficient on behalf of your valuable clients.

  • Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.
  • Wyatt Earp

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Things You Can Do To Keep Happy, Long-Term Clients

I’ve been thinking about client service this week. On the negative side…. have you ever heard people inside your firm make fun of clients? Can clients, and others, waiting in your office lobby over-hear what employees are saying? Is there more negative talk inside the office about clients than there is positive talk?

It’s all about your attitude and your appreciation for clients. They are valuable and they trust you with their financial information. If you have clients you do not like, why work for them?

Here’s some ideas for keeping great clients happy:

  • Answer incoming phone calls in three rings or less. Don’t let voice-mail always represent you.
  • Return client phone calls promptly. – never later than the following business day.
  • Don’t take other telephone calls while meeting with a client or team member.
  • Keep appointments on time. This goes for appointments both in and out of your office. (“If you are early, you are on time. If you are on time, you’re late.”)
  • Complete engagements when promised or a little before.
  • Keep clients posted if unusual events will cause the fees or reporting results to vary from what clients expect.
  • Maintain a clean, professional, and comfortable work area.
  • Listen when clients have complaints. Don’t avoid confrontation – use it to improve.
  • Offer solutions to correct errors, not excuses for why errors happened.
  • Make each client feel like your most important client.
  • Spell and pronounce the client’s name and his company’s name correctly.
  • Thank clients for referrals. Thank clients for their business.
  • Treat clients as precious assets.

If you do all of these and MORE, the firm’s revenue growth should then take care of itself.

  • I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
  • Helen Keller

Monday, March 21st, 2016

There Is A Lot More Than Just Satisfying The Client

“If you want to make your dreams come true, the first thing you have to do is wake up.” – J. M. Power

Many years ago when I attended Accountants’ Bootcamp, I learned a whole lot about quality service and pleasing clients.

Satisfying the client is just the bottom of the Hierarchy of Satisfaction ladder.

You SATISFY the client – that’s that! You correctly prepare their taxes or financial statements.

Better yet… You EXCEED expectations. You do something they didn’t expect. Simple.

Better yet… You DELIGHT the client. Maybe you personally deliver their taxes.

Better yet… You make them say “WOW!” I always thought that was the goal, but there is more

Better yet… The client becomes a RAVING FAN. They talk about you and your firm with their friends and business associates.

Better yet… You create WAVES OF LUST. They want you (and your firm) no one else when they need help. Can there be more? – Yes!

The best – You are the ONLY ones who DO WHAT YOU DO the way you do it. Period.

Are you the ONLY ones? If not, make plans now to get that reputation. Provide a client service workshop for your entire team. Ask them what you, as a a firm, should be doing to better serve the client. Some of the things should be “over the top,” if you want to be the ONLY one.

  • Success isn't a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set ourself on fire.
  • Arnold Glasow

Friday, March 18th, 2016

Bring Value To Your Clients By Offering Additional Services

“Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.” – Donald Porter

It is important for CPA firms to continually demonstrate the value they bring to their clients.

“Value-added” has been bantered around the profession for years and still some accountants find it difficult to put into words. One way is to offer your clients additional services. Usually, they don’t realize that a service they are contemplating from an outside consultant is already offered by their CPA firm.

It comes back to that magic word: Communicate!

You not only need to communicate with the clients, you need to communicate with your own staff.

Do all of your team members, even the most recent college recruits, know what to look and listen for while they are at the client’s location? Have experienced partners tell them stories how they landed a lucrative engagement by chatting with a client while they were working at the client’s site.

Have you educated your team about all of the firm’s service offerings? Sometimes the newer employees really don’t know what the firm offers in addition to tax, audit and accounting. At a lunch & learn, set up a panel of 3 or 4 niche leaders to talk about how the services from their niche can benefit clients.

Can all of your team members talk intelligently about your menu of services? Provide them with an Additional Services Checklist so they can at least convey the opportunities (and who to talk to at the firm) to the client.

Design a Cross-sell Brochure to help your team and make it nice enough they can even leave it behind with a client. Here’s one-side of a sample I share – it is in tri-fold format. If you want a sample, let me know. Sometimes a piece of paper still gets your message across!

CrossSell Sample KA

  • Know what your customers want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet.
  • Kevin Stirtz

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

Specialize

“Don’t try to make a product for everybody, because that is a product for nobody.” – Seth Godin

I can remember a time when the partners at a CPA firm would joke with each other about being a specialist. These conversations would happen at a CPA association meeting or inside a partner meeting.

If they had a chance to land a car dealership and their firm was already serving ONE dealership, they might convey to the prospective client that they had a lot of experience with dealerships. Same applied to franchises or excavation contractors and so on.

Those days are gone. Today’s most successful firms truly specialize and are deeply knowledgeable about their specialty. The firm has a champion (or niche leader) for the specialty. The leader speaks about the specialty area and writes articles for the specialty association newsletters. They attend conferences directed toward the specialty and continually read and educate themselves about that particular business. They hang-out with business owners in that segment or niche.

These CPAs “own” that specialty inside their firm and are held responsible for the success of the niche. They build a team around it. The niche leader’s compensation is tied to the niche. It is serious business and can help a firm achieve great success.

Here’s an example of a highly specialized firm – Wolcott & Associates.

  • A specialist is a man who knows more and more about less and less.
  • William J. Mayo