Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

Your World Will Be Unrecognizable

“We won’t recognize the vast majority of CPA firms in five to 10 years.” – Barry Melancon

CPAs working in public accounting, get ready. I’m smiling as I type this because I have been warning, pleading, asking and begging you to “get ready” for about 25 years!

As reported via Accounting Today, Barry Melancon, President/CEO of the AICPA said recently, “The number of changes facing the accounting profession will leave most practices radically altered in the near future.”

Yes, you have been hearing that for years but this time it’s different because time is truly running out.

The businesses you serve are facing changes in a quicker time frame than ever before, why should you think CPA firms would be exempt? CPAs are supposed to be showing their clients the way into the future.

Erik Asgeirsson, President/CEO of CPA.com encourages accountants to dive deep into technology and pursue how it can help them deliver higher value to their clients.

Be sure to read the full article via Accounting Today. Be sure to note the graph that shows the percent of firms implementing cloud accounting in 2017.

  • People evolve and it's important to not stop evolving just because you've reached adulthood.
  • J. K. Simmons

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Be Efficient With Your Email

“I’m really good at email.” – Elon Musk

It’s that old devil – the inbox! So many accounting firm citizens, from all levels inside the firm, lament how difficult it is to keep up with emails.

I have even heard partners talk about the number of emails they received in almost a bragging tone! “I get 100 emails a day!” “Well, I get almost 200!”

Don’t let email run your daily life. Don’t make it your default, open page on your desk top. Don’t feel compelled to reply immediately.

I have read lots of articles about how to deal with email and have shared several on this blog. I also practice what I learn! I do not continually check my email. I close my email window when I am getting real work done, etc.

AnthonyThis week I read a post by S. Anthony Iannarino, speaker and author about how he processes his email. I think you will find it very helpful.

He does not live in his inbox.

He works in 90 minute segments (without checking email).

He does a quick scan for anything urgent (that’s your challenge… what is urgent and what really isn’t urgent?)

There are really not very many emails that actually need an IMMEDIATE response. If you have one, then respond to it.

Every Wednesday morning he processes his email (he has five inboxes) and gets them all to zero.

I think you will enjoy reading his helpful, brief blog post. If you can’t give all of his tips a try at least try a few of his recommended actions.

If I let myself, I could sit and process email continually all day long! My method is to check email first thing in the morning, around noon and then again late afternoon. I rarely look at email after 5:00pm. My clients have top priority. I answer their emails first (but not always immediately).

Commit to a new practice for handling email and making your day more productive.

When you visit Anthony’s site, you might also learn some things to help with sales, after all Anthony’s site is thesalesblog.com.  And he has a book titled The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need. 

  • The perfect is the enemy of the good.
  • Voltaire

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Dig Deeper – It Might Not Be Your Fees

IMG_1192“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” – Bill Gates

Every tax season you wonder. Will all our clients return to our firm for their annual personal and business tax preparation?

There will be a few who will leave, for various reasons… they’ve moved, their brother-in-law now works for another local firm, they sold their business, etc. The most common reason the departing clients give is that your fees are just too high… more than they want to pay.

You review last year’s work and feel confident that the fees charged were valid compensation for the work performed. You contemplate giving the complaining client a reduced fee quote for their continuing work. Don’t do it!

Dig deeper. A client usually departs a CPA firm because of something other than fees. It is just easy for them to use fees as the excuse because they don’t want to tell you the truth. They feel neglected. They feel you are always reactive rather than proactive. They overheard something said by a member of the engagement team that was distasteful to them.

Studies tell us that a typical business hears from only 4% of it’s dissatisfied customers. Are you asking your clients, EVERY time you have a communication with them, “How are we doing?”

CPAs often spend much more time focused on NEW clients than they do on their OLD, faithful clients. You begin to take them for granted. Your existing clients are golden. Studies also tell us that the probability of selling to a new prospects is 5-20%. The probability of selling to an existing client is 60-70%.

Keep in mind:

  • It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience.
  • For every customer who bothers to complain, 26 other customers remain silent.

Clients are, of course, concerned about price but most will be willing to pay more for awesome service.

 

  • The customer's perception is your reality.
  • Kate Zabriskie

Monday, February 13th, 2017

“Do As I Say” Does Not Work

“Example is leadership.” – Albert Schweitzer

Your firm management group (includes partners, managers, and the firm administrator) works hard at defining and establishing the procedures that most efficiently enable the firm to provide excellent client service.

Your HR professional or firm administrator spends a significant amount of time and effort to update the firm handbook, the one that outlines the expected behaviors of all people working at the firm. It is approved by all partners.

You have job descriptions that document the duties of all levels of employees, including partners, at the firm.

At a staff meeting, the managing partner, speaking on behalf of all partners, explains a new policy or procedure and asks for everyone to get on board with implementation.

Do as I sayAll of this can be summed up as “Do as I say.” Then….

A couple of partners and a manager short-cut some of the documented processes or procedures.

Several leaders openly disregard a certain topic in the personnel handbook.

As far as job descriptions, we often find partners doing manager work and managers doing senior work.

Several partners procrastinate on visibly implementing the “new” procedure.

All of this completes the familiar saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

This phrase should not be part of your firm culture. The leaders’ actions are obvious to the employees and probably an on-going topic of conversation or even ridicule. What can you do about it now? What more can you do after April 15? Think about it.

  • A person always doing his or her best becomes a natural leader, just by example.
  • Joe DiMaggio

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Working a Flex Schedule Doesn’t Mean Your Are Stuck

“The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who’s going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand

I was delighted to read a recent article from the Journal of Accountancy by Yasmine El-Ramly and Anita Dennis titled, Rising to the top on a reduced schedule.

The article features two female partners at Grant Thornton. Yes, partners who work a flex schedule – Flexible Work Arrangement (FWA).

The partners are Debbie Smith, CPA and Erica O’Malley, CPA. They built a thriving employee benefit plan audit practice while working a 70% schedule.

Some lessons featured in the article:

Lesson 1 – A flexible work arrangement can pave the way

Lesson 2 – A foundation built on teamwork and trust

Lesson 3 – Focus on results

Lesson 4 – With flexibility comes responsibility

Lesson 5 – Time management and organizational skills stand out

Lesson 6 – Plan to be flexible

These are great lessons for anyone struggling with working a flexible schedule or for firms contemplating implementation of an FWA that can even include partners.

I hope you read the entire article to learn more about each lesson.

  • Women are the real architects of society.
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

Keeping Up With Change

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” – W. Edwards Deming

How are you doing with that “change” thing? I write about it over and over again and about how important it is to embrace change and keep pace with the changing world.

jodyToday, I won’t write much but I want you to follow this link and read a great article by Jody Padar. To me, it’s a simple message:  If you don’t change you will lose clients. Read it please and think about it over the weekend.

  • You must welcome change as the rule but not as the ruler.
  • Denis Waitley

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

Don’t Be Typical

“We are a full-service accounting firm serving clients throughout the area, dedicated to providing our clients with professional, personalized services and guidance in a wide range of financial and business needs.”

“Since 1984, our Certified Public Accounting firm, has been providing quality, personalized financial guidance to local individuals and businesses. Our expertise ranges from valuable tax management and accounting services to more in-depth services such as audits of financial statements, preparation of financial statements, consulting and financial planning.”

Do the above descriptions sound like something that is on your website?  They are typical of what I see as I visit CPA websites from across the country. Although I have been urging you to get creative with your website for years, I still find many that look the same way they did in 1997 (or earlier).

While your accountants are busy for the next couple of months, it’s time for your firm administrator or marketing director (coordinator) to get busy updating your website.

Make it friendly to the first-time visitor. On the home page, tell them how you can help THEM and not so much about YOU. Save the information about your firm for a subsequent page. Some things you need to convey:

  • Immediate resources for the visitor
  • Your energy, enthusiasm, and excitement about what you do
  • The dedication of your staff to client service
  • How you can solve their business problems
  • How you are unique

Consider this advice from Lee Iacocca:

“So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don’t sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we’ve satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late.”

  • You can, you should, and if you're brave enough to start, you will.
  • Stephen King, on writing

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

I Can Do It A Lot Faster

“Deciding what not to do is an important as deciding what to do.” – Jessica Jackley

CPAs who have reached the manager level in a public accounting firm are not always great managers.

They have reached the manager level (usually the level just below partner) because they have worked very hard and been with the firm for several years. They are good at managing the client work. They have been trained and trained for that job. The firm has invested significant dollars in their technical knowledge advancement. They are great technicians.

Firm leaders then expect them to naturally be great managers of people – great trainers, mentors and delegators. Yet, the firm has not spent any money on teaching them how to be motivators and leaders.

Perhaps you have heard this story inside your own firm – Sally is a great manager. She brings the job in on time and under budget. She works an almost unreal amount of hours to get it done. She has an engagement team to help her. Young Bill on her team struggles with a particular part of the work. Sally takes the work back and does it herself. Her excuse is, “I know my billing rate is much higher than Bill’s but I can do it in half the time.” Thus, Bill never learns and Sally is tired and stressed.

Ask you younger people to stretch – they might just surprise you in how much they can accomplish if they are taught, managed and encouraged.

  • No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.
  • Andrew Carnegie

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

Talk To Your Clients And Your Team

“The telephone is a good way to talk to people without having to offer them a drink.” – Fran Lebowitz

I know many CPAs who avoid talking to their clients. Yes, they have all kinds of valid excuses. I don’t mean to say that they ignore their clients but they think they save time by emailing almost all of the time.

That’s why the following thought, expressed by Simon Sinek, was meaningful to me.

“A five-minute call replaces the time it takes to read and reply to the original email and read and reply to their reply… or replies. And I no longer spend 20+ minutes crafting the perfect email – no need to.” – – Simon Sinek

So, you say, when I call my client I always get voice mail and we end up playing telephone tag. When they return my call I may be on the phone with another client.

Simple solution – set a telephone appointment.

Sinek’s quote also applies to your team members – a two-minute conversation can keep client work moving through the office rather than having the staffer wait on partners or managers to reply to emails.

Delay in getting answers from partners is one of the most common responses I receive when facilitating upward feedback surveys for partners.

I think the quote, below, applies to accounting firms!

  • For email, the old postcard rule applies. Nobody else is suppose to read your postcards, but you'd be a fool if you wrote anything private on one.
  • Judith Martin

Friday, January 6th, 2017

Skill Gap

Do we have a skill gap in public accounting? Yes, I believe we have SOMEWHAT of a skill gap in that CPAs with more longevity are not as nimble with technology. They are certainly not slugs either.

The bigger issue is that they have an aversion to change. Often forming a major roadblock to change inside their own firm. One managing partner told me, “We LIKE paper.”

With younger accountants, the skills gap seems to be mostly with communication.

Watch the short video, below, via IFAC, as Mark Koziel, Executive Vice President, Firm Services, AICPA expertly explains these gaps.

 

  • A lot of people are afraid to say what they want. That's why they don't get what they want.
  • Madonna