Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

New To The Firm? – – Be A Volunteer

If you are a beginner at an accounting firm, be a volunteer.

If you are not new to the firm, share this blog post with a beginner.

It is my observation that most partners thoroughly enjoy working with a beginner who shows an interest in learning as much as possible. Many partners have told me….. “I would love it if they would just stick their head inside my door and ask if there was anything they could help me with.”

Listen to what is going on around you. Has a new large client recently been added to the firm? Ask if you can be assigned to the job.

Does the marketing person need someone to represent the firm at a community event? Volunteer to shadow a partner or manager.

Sometimes the marketing person needs someone to fill-in for a partner or manager at a charitable luncheon event. They love to invite beginners to fill these spots. IF (and that’s a big if), they are dressed professional enough to attend. This one is a big issue because of very relaxed dress codes. Volunteer to keep some dress clothes at the office for a quick change.

Does the firm administrator or HR person need an extra body to staff the firm booth at a local campus? Volunteer.

Firm leaders are impressed with people who have initiative. They are impressed with people who have a great attitude. They are impressed with people who are not afraid to speak-up and volunteer.

 

  • Wherever a man turns he can find someone who needs him.
  • Albert Schweitzer

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

Prequalifying Clients and Baker’s Law

Ron Baker, is that you with Rita?I like to give you information that is helpful. Much of it comes from my own viewpoint and observations. Some of it comes from the writings of others. Some I simply point you in the right direction and some I just put the “CPA spin” on it because it was not originally directed to the accounting profession.

A recent article by Ron Baker is a MUST READ for you: Avoiding Baker’s Law: Bad Customers Drive Out Good Customers.  

He begins with a quote from Tom Peters: “You’re as good–or as bad–as the character of your Client List. In a very real sense, you are your Client List!”

Most of you have now at least developed a list to use when grading clients, usually A, B, C and D. Baker’s article gives you two different samples of criteria and much more to contemplate.

What’s your criteria for accepting new clients? The most successful firms have rigorous prequalifying standards, and they do not accept all comers. Many of the accounting firms I observe, take on almost every client that comes their way. Read Baker’s article and be proud that there are many clients that you DO NOT have.

  • Indeed, you are your client list.
  • Ron Baker

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

Client Service Doesn’t Stop If You Are Closed On Fridays

LP0YFILDDJLots of firms are very flexible. Lots of firms close on Friday in the summer or work partial days. Employees of CPA firms have always seemed to love getting extra time off.

When I first started in a CPA firm, we would often get to go home at noon on Christmas Eve – it was not expected… it was spur of the moment some years – not every year. We also randomly got to leave early on April 16th after the partners took us to the country club for a thank-you luncheon. It felt great…. a free afternoon to do personal things! We also had flexibility. I could go to the dentist or doctor during business hours… I didn’t have to use vacation time. I could attend any of my son’s school functions…. I didn’t have to use vacation time. I just had to get my work done (meaning sometimes I had to come back in the evening or come in extra early for a couple of days). Client service was a top priority. You didn’t go home early if a client needed you.

Go forward 30 years. Employees expect 2 days at Christmas, 2 days at Thanksgiving, a full-day after-tax-season holiday, Fridays off in the summer and a great deal of flexibility. Now, flexibility means work anytime – anywhere and technology permits it. I would have loved that option way back when.

Why do young accountants expect to have Fridays as “free from work” days? Maybe it’s because when they were in college their classes were scheduled Monday thru Thursday. A professor friend of mine told me, “our professors don’t want to teach on Fridays, so the class schedule reflects that”.

My endodontist, on a Friday, discovered a problem while working on one of my teeth. He tried to contact my dentist – no one there, they close on Friday. His nurse tried to reach several oral surgeons – no one there, they close on Friday. He said to me, “What is it with all these people who don’t work on Friday?” I had to wait, in pain, until the following week.

I support the idea CPA firms closing on Friday in the summer. I think the team will get as much work done from Monday through Thursday – – because they appreciate the Friday off. Your firm is usually not dealing with emergencies. But, do your firm’s accountants offer the clients their mobile number, just in case they do have a pressing issue?

Yes, indeed, time have changed. Doctors, dentists and college professors don’t want to work on Fridays. If you decide to go this direction, don’t forget about client service.

  • If you're not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is.
  • Jan Carlson

Monday, December 28th, 2015

What Kind Of Creative New Services Are You Offering?

I recently read a story on Fast Company, These 3 Entrepreneurs Started Companies To Help Their Grandparents.

We often think of young entrepreneurs as being very wrapped up in developing things for millennials. However, the three examples are young people creating solutions for their grandparents. And, they are capitalizing on the huge market that is our aging population.

What is your firm doing to tap into this huge market? Maybe you should solicit ideas from your own young people.

  • And the beauty of a woman, with passing years only grows.
  • Audrey Hepburn

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

Email – Forget The Auto-Reply

Email is losing the communication battle. Most people want you to text them. Your incoming generation of employees do not use email. Your young clients do not use email.

Not so long ago, you had to be in the office, sitting at your computer to answer and send emails. Now, you carry a small mobile device that allows you immediate connection no matter where you are located.

Your clients know you are looking at your mobile device. They don’t care where you are when they need to ask you a question. So forget the auto-responder. It just fills-up the inbox of the person sending you the original email.

I like Jeffrey Gitomer‘s advice about using an auto-responder:

Do not use auto-reply telling people you’re out of the office (for the holidays or otherwise). Either respond, or let them sit until you return. If I send you an email, I don’t really care where you are or what you are doing.

Yes, email is declining but it is not going away completely. It is still appropriate for certain types of communication. I have known accountants who actually brag about how many emails they receive in a day. There is something wrong with that picture.

  • Because the mail never stops. It just keeps coming and coming and coming. There's never a letup, it's relentless.
  • Newman (character on Seinfeld)

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

Client Service – A Simple Thank-you Can Be Powerful

IMG_6096Have you received a handwritten note or thank-you lately? In this world of emails, texts and instant messaging, it really feels good to open a card and see that someone has taken the time to actually put pen to paper and write their thoughts to you.

That’s why it is so important to ask your client engagement teams to write a short thank-you note to the client’s team upon the end of the engagement. Have the in-charge (person actually leading the team in the field) to write the note and have it signed by all other team members that have “face time” with the client. Then route it to the Partner for signing and mailing. You might even need to provide the team with “suggested wording” because they sometimes lament… “what should I say?”

To make this happen, put it on the engagement checklist.

Here are guidelines:

A simple, handwritten thank-you upon completion of the engagement.

  • The “primary” team member in the field (or in the office) writes the note.
  • Route to every team member who had face time with the client or client’s team.
  • Route to the partner for signature and mailing.

Here are three versions of sample wording:

Thank-you for giving us the opportunity to work with you. We appreciate your business and the confidence you have placed in us.

We enjoyed working with you and your team this year. Thank-you for giving us the opportunity to serve you.

Once again this year, it was a pleasure for us to work on your account. We appreciate the opportunity and the confidence you have placed in us.

These are just “samples” – you know the people you work with – be creative!

 

  • Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.
  • Voltaire

Monday, December 14th, 2015

Client Communication – Important At Holiday Time

photoMany of us have some great stories about the lack of customer service. The lack of service reminds me of the saying that applies to employees at your firm. There is a contract…. you pay them, they work. In accounting firms many people are paid extremely well – so they should work extremely hard.

For your valuable clients, they pay you, you serve them. They pay you LOTS of money, you SERVE them extremely well, yes, almost bending over backwards.

As we near mid-December, many people want to take time off, to shop, party and spend time with family and friends. That is a wonderful thing. But don’t forget about client service.

In accounting firms, you see your best clients this time of year for tax planning, year-end computations, etc. That is not enough.

Be sure ALL your clients are aware of your firm’s holiday schedule. Do they know you will be closed on Christmas Eve, New Years Eve and maybe at other times? Do they know someone at the firm who can answer a question if you are not available? That’s why you have two or even three people officially assigned to clients and are sure the client KNOWS them well.

Make sure your clients say, “WOW,” in a positive way.

  • If you're not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is.
  • Jan Carlzon

Friday, December 4th, 2015

Don’t Be Afraid To Be Different

Do you have a tagline that is very similar to other firms?

Do you have a website that is very similar to other firms?

Do you treat your people in a way that is very similar to other firms?

As I consult with firms across the nation, one of the first things that the partners tell me is “we are different from other firms”. Yet, to me, they appear very similar to other firms.

A new year is approaching. Why not make 2016 the year to seriously explore how you can differentiate yourself in your market – to attract clients and to attract people.

Maybe you really do provide the same services as other firms…. but, how can you describe and sell those services in a very unique way? How can you do similar things but “sell” them differently?

CPAs are risk adverse. Don’t be afraid to be different.

  • "Conventional is not for me. I like things that are uniquely Flo. I like being different.
  • Florence Griffith Joyner

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

The Little Things – Client Service

IMG_3676I have always stressed that within a CPA firm, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference. That applies to the team, each other and to your valuable clients.

Stop. When I say “valuable clients” does that mean all your client are valuable? No. Gently out-place the ones who are not valuable – you know who they are.

Back to the topic. All of this came to mind when a the Culligan man came to our house to service our system. See his picture; notice what he put on his feet when he came in the door.

Little things you can do:

  • A handwritten note to every employee on their work anniversary date
  • A small box of candy (4 to 6 pieces) mailed to their home on their birthday (so the family can see it and share)
  • Smiling and saying good morning to everyone
  • Making sure you have communication inside your firm that is open, honest and on-going.
  • Mailing the clients who always pay on time a “Thanks for always paying on time” note – U.S. mail or email.
  • Sending a card to a client’s child when they graduate from H.S. or college.
  • The client likes dark chocolate or milk chocolate – send them the appropriate box of candy.

Hey, Culligan Man! – Thanks for remembering the little things.

  • It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.
  • John Wooden

Monday, November 16th, 2015

Sacred Cows

Sacred Cow – definition:

One that is often unreasonably immune from criticism or opposition. Someone or something that has been accepted or respected for a long time and that people are afraid or unwilling to criticize or question.

If you are involved in merger discussions and are acquiring a firm, be sure to ask: What are your sacred cows?

When leaders of a firm want to be “merged-in” they might shy away from talking about their sacred cows until after the deal is done. Too late. The firm that is acquiring cannot facilitate the transition if they are not aware of the sacred cows.

cowWhat I usually observe is that it is a long-time employee who cannot be terminated. CPAs are kind and loyal. They keep some long-time employees just because “she has been with the firm for 25 years, even though she hasn’t adapted to our technology” or “he’s a partner, even though his performance hasn’t been up to par for many, many years.”

Sometimes it is tax software. “We will not change our tax package.” Period.

Remember, you are running a business. Why wouldn’t you negotiate a nice departure package and hire someone at half the salary who loves technology? Why wouldn’t you negotiate a retirement timeline and make departure easy?

As for technology and software, the entire firm should be using the exact same software and following the exact same procedures. That way any team member can work for any partner or office at any given time via remote connectivity. The same goes for basic office procedures. Of course, offices have some minor nuances and personality differences but the work gets done the same way and to meet firm-wide quality standards.

  • I don't want any vegetables thank you. I paid for the cow to eat them for me.
  • Douglas Coupland