Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category
Monday, April 25th, 2016
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.
Thursday, March 31st, 2016
“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 #12 – Read 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.
Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016
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.
Monday, March 21st, 2016
“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.
Friday, March 18th, 2016
“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!
Know what your customers want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet.
Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
“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
Monday, March 14th, 2016
“If you smile when no one else is around, you really mean it.” – Andy Rooney
I received a card last week from Honda.
It was customized with my name on the front: Happy Anniversary, Rita! – with a picture of my car. On the inside it said: Happy TWO to both of you (me and my Accord Coupe) – it’s our second anniversary.
It made me smile.
I receive a birthday card every year from Southwest Airlines. It also makes me smile.
Both companies have millions of customers and yet they manage to get a card to me on my birthday and on my new car anniversary.
How difficult would it be for you to do something similar for your clients? You have a much stronger relationship with them than I do with Honda or Southwest.
Just maybe you will make them smile.
If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don't be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning 'Good morning' at total strangers.
Monday, March 7th, 2016
I have always believed that the best marketing strategy is how you serve your clients. It’s sort of the the “build it and they will come” mentality.
If your firm wins the reputation for over-the-top client service, your current clients will talk about you and potential clients will seek you out.
This week’s quote from Tom Peters says volumes about the CPA profession:
“Obviously there is a role for marketing, strategy formulation, and the like. But, ultimately, it all boils down to perceived, and appreciated, and consistently delivered service and quality to customers.”
Your competitors can find out what services your offer, what niches you pursue and the names of your employees and rainmakers. They cannot easily judge how you serve your clients. Serve your clients better than your competitors and you will win the race
Service begins with the pursuit of the potential client. It is not about selling to them or “pitching” them, it is a longer process of simply building a relationship.
Jeffrey Gitomer says it so well:
“The relationship is the biggest advantage you have in selling. People want to do business with people they can relate to. Finding out what your customer wants will help you discover your competitive advantage, but this is not as powerful as building a relationship. Coming to work early is a great habit, but may not affect your relationship building skills. The worst scenario is to try to learn a competitive advantage from your competitor. Which came first, the competition or the relationship? The relationship comes first and the sale will follow.” –Jeffrey Gitomer, excerpted from The Little Red Book of Sales Answers
To me, maybe the most important quote for CPAs to take to heart is featured below in my quote of the day section – from Harvey Mackay.
To me, job titles don't matter. Everyone is in sales. It's the only way we stay in business.
Monday, March 7th, 2016
Over the weekend, I read an article on AccountingWEB by Amy Vetter of Xero.
The new reality is that as a CPA firm leader you need to be thinking about a distributed workforce. It is extremely difficult right now to find talented accounting and tax professionals but you do not have to go about it in the traditional way.
It’s time to expand your horizons and use the latest tools to extend your abilities and reach out to hire employees and contractors in any geographic area. Firms are using the talent of a SAHM (stay-at-home mom) who has decided to temporarily stay at home.
Xero has a Xero Advisor Directory of Xero Certified advisors listing accountants and bookkeepers who know how to use Xero software and may be looking for project work.
It is a new world out there and freelancers are a huge part of it. The Freelancers Union says that one in three working Americans is an independent worker and it includes people of all skill levels.
Read the article and open your mind to some virtual trends and how adopting different approaches can help you grow your firm.
Most mothers are instinctive philosophers.
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Monday, February 29th, 2016
I always enjoy talking with my friend, Stephen Vono of NAPLIA, about what he is seeing and hearing in the world of professional liability insurance for CPAs.
Well, honestly, I just enjoy talking with Vono period. He always makes me smile and laugh.
Want to hear about the current trends in malpractice claims? Here’s a short but informative video from Accounting Today featuring Vono.
Stephen Vono selfie with Lori, Rita, Ginny & Jane
Never, ever underestimate the importance of having fun.