Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

More About Client Acceptance

“You get to choose your customers, not the other way around.” – Seth Godin

Yesterday I wrote about providing too much information and spending too much time with a potential client before you know they are a suitable fit for your firm.

This is a tough issue inside many CPA firms.

Firms are competing heavily for new clients. You need them. So, you add new clients without subjecting them to a rigorous client acceptance process.

Has your firm grown by accepting every client that comes along and keeping them even when they are a collection headache?  Is there pressure on your partners to bring in new business so that they can claim their share of the profits during the year-end compensation dance?  If these type of actions are in your past, think hard about your future.

Ask your team members about the quality of your client base.  They will tell you immediately which ones they would nominate for out-placement.

Even though you really know you should serve clients that fit your mission, clients you like and admire and get rid of those that are poor business people, most of you will continue to work with clients that you really don’t like very much, who treat your people disrespectfully and then don’t pay you.

Seth Godin had a good post on his blog about Choosing Your Customers. Seth says, “Yes, you get to choose them, not the other way around. You choose them with your pricing, your content, your promotion, your outreach and your product line.”

  • The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.
  • Michael Porter

Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

Client Acceptance

“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.” – Nathaniel Branden

A potential new client calls and wants to meet you and possibly hire you and your firm. You are thrilled – a new client!

More and more potential clients are contacting you via your website to inquire about services. You are thrilled – a new client!

They come into the office for a complimentary first meeting. This is where you need to be careful and not be so thrilled.

They talk and talk. You talk and talk. Before you know it you have given them a couple hours of FREE consultation. Because you are a nice person and want to help people you have also probably given them valuable advice on their financial situation without them becoming a client.

Many people who contact you, are not a suitable client for your services. Don’t invest too much time upfront.

Yes, put the word out there that you offer a free one-hour consultation for prospective clients. But, establish a script for that first meeting to learn more about them so you can decide whether they are a suitable candidate for your firm. Don’t accept clients that do not fit your criteria for an “A” client. Your expertise is not a fit for everyone. Invest one hour, no more until they sign the engagement letter.

The establishment of a valid billing and collection policy begins with client acceptance.

  • Acceptance doesn't mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there's got to be a way through it.
  • Michael J. Fox

Friday, May 25th, 2018

Flashback Friday – Effective Follow-up Emails

“Don’t take life too seriously. You’ll never get out of it alive.” – Elbert Hubbard

I consider it almost summer, so this Friday I am going to begin my usual summer Friday series by directing you to a prior blog post that I think is important and, hopefully, interesting.

Want to “check-in” or “touch base” with a client or prospect? Don’t put those words in the subject line. Make your follow-up emails more interesting and valuable.

Click here to read more.

  • Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.
  • Guillaume Apollinaire

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

Summer Hours

“You need to stay with the times and keep evolving.” – Corey Feldman

Yesterday, I received a spring/summer newsletter from the CPA firm that expertly handles my tax filing requirements.

It provided a few prominent highlights about the TCJA (Tax Cuts and Jobs Act plus lots of other financial information and business solutions. They even included a picture of the team with some artistic creations they each did one Saturday afternoon during busy season.

It ended with the following message that I hope might serve as an example for your firm:

Our summer office hours will be from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM Monday through Thursday, May-August.  We will resume Friday office hours in  September. 

  • Adaptability is about the powerful difference between adapting to cope and adapting to win.
  • Max McKeown

Friday, April 27th, 2018

Guarantee Your Work

“I have a place I got to in the Bahamas. It’s the only place that guarantees total anonymity and freedom.” – Johnny Depp

I guarantee my work. Do You?

I have written about this before but maybe you need a reminder about implementing this policy.

Your firm goes all out to provide over-the-top client service. You want to make your clients happy. Don’t be afraid to offer a satisfaction guarantee. Mentioning confidentiality is also important if you want to make your clients feel comfortable and have them trust you.

Here’s the wording I use in my proposals:

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.

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

  • Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.
  • Bill Gates

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

Problems

“The work is to solve problems in a way that you’re proud of.” – Seth Godin

I love the above quotation from a post by Seth Godin. He is describing what it means to be an entrepreneur.

I believe that this quote describes my mission. I work to help my CPA firm clients solve problems, as the quote says, in a way that I am proud of. Often, it is very challenging, mostly because the problems I am trying to help solve can be solved by a simple solution – change.

You, working in a CPA firm, have the same exact mission. It’s not preparing tax returns or financial statements, it is solving problems for your clients and helping them make needed changes to be more profitable and successful.

Begin looking at your work this way. If you are solving problems, word will spread and you will have more clients. Solving problems is a great way to market.

  • We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
  • Albert Einstein

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

Processes

“I follow three rules: Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people you care.” – Lou Holtz

How did your processes and procedures work during your busy season? Be sure you contemplate this question. Also, be sure you ask your people how they thought the processes worked this season.

Now is the time to work toward making NEXT year better. Identify trouble spots and spend some time analyzing.

I have observed that in many firms they have very well-thought-out processes and they work well until you get to the partner level and then things fall apart.

As a partner, are you a partner or a sole-proprietor working in a multi-partner firm? Is your firm a one-firm firm or a silo firm? Do you act as though, because you are a partner, the rules don’t apply to you?

One-firm firms grow and prosper much quicker and easier than silo firms.

If you are the leader of the firm, maybe you need a partner commitment statement that declares partners will follow the firm’s processes, procedures, and guidelines. Your people will thank you!

  • If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun.
  • Katharine Hepburn

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

Guidelines For Clients

“Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.” – Napoleon Hill

You have them. You keep them. Sometimes you shouldn’t keep them. But, if you do, figure out how to deal with them. I am talking about those clients that drive you crazy!

Talk to new clients and current clients about how to help YOU serve THEM better (How to be a better client.)

Here’s a sample that you discuss with clients and include in your new client packet.

To facilitate our efforts in providing the highest level of service, we ask the following of you.

  • You will be open, frank and honest with us at all times. You will let us know immediately of any concerns you have about our work together.
  • You will give us all the information we need to complete our assignments.
  • 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. If you cannot pay, you will call and talk to us immediately.
  • You will give consideration to referring us to at least one other business that might benefit from our services.
  • Each life is made up of mistakes and learning, waiting and growing, practicing patience and being persistent.
  • Billy Graham

Monday, April 16th, 2018

Pretending

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius

Do you ever feel yourself pretending that you love your work, your career, and your firm?

From time to time, perhaps we all feel that way. As busy season comes to a close for accountants and their teams, this might be something that enters your mind if you work at a CPA firm.

Don’t hide from it, explore it. Public accounting is a challenging profession. Even though firms have done so much to make work life more enjoyable for their employees, there are still long hours, a certain amount of stress, difficult clients, and various other challenges. If you dread going into the office and feel like you are pretending to be something you are not, don’t ignore those feelings. Decide what you really want to be doing with your life.

The good thing is most accountants working in a CPA firm tell me (via surveys and conversations) that the thing they enjoy most about their career is the work. They love working with clients and helping them succeed. They love the work but not most of the other things that surround the work. Things like keeping track of their time, the long hours, the expectation to bring in new business, the human resources challenges and other internal management issues.

Do you love the work and the firm or are you pretending?

Here’s a good article the gives you a list of the top 10 signs that you feel like an imposter at work.

  • It's all about quality of life and finding a happy balance between work and friends and family.
  • Phillip Green

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

What If You Had More Time at Work?

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.” – Jim Rohn

If you had more time, what would you do with it?

If you are a CPA, accountant or support professional working in public accounting, it seems that you are always very busy and have very little extra time. What if you had just a little more free time at work? Wouldn’t it be great to focus on something other than social media?

Marketing guru, Mark Schaefer, interviewed some marketing professionals and asked them what they would do with a little extra time. Many of them said they would get away from social media and talk to people in person. What a concept!

After you wrap-up tax season, why not outline a plan for all of your professionals to make more personal contacts as the remainder of 2018 unfolds? You are in the service business. Talk to those you serve, in person. It is a very natural and non-threatening way to develop additional business for your firm.

  • Keep Your Sales Pipeline Full By Prospecting Continuously. Always Have More People To See Than You Have Time To See Them.
  • Brian Tracy