Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category

Monday, March 20th, 2017

Use Email & Social Media To Remind Your Clients

“Nagging is the repetition of unpalatable truths.” – Edith Summerskill

My dentist and my doctor send me reminders about upcoming appointments. These reminders come via email, text and a phone message. It is all automated via their practice management software. I have always wondered why more CPAs aren’t using a tool like this.

We now live in the world of social media and digital communication. Be sure you are using these tools to remind your clients about supplying their tax information.

When I talk to firms, they often tell me that they call and remind their clients about furnishing their information. When I ask, “How many times did you call?” the answer is usually…. “Once”. Once is not enough.

Here’s an example of an email one of my clients sent out recently. Maybe it will help you compose your reminder message. It is important that the reminder only go to  those clients who are tardy – not to ALL clients.

Have We Received Your Personal Tax Information?

April 15th will be here before you know it! Have you turned in your personal tax information? Remember, in order to ensure a timely filing of your tax return (to avoid an extension), we must have your information by March 22, 2017. All tax organizers were sent to clients in December of 2016. If you need another copy, please let us know. Please be sure to bring us your information so we are able to get started. If you are waiting for a few items, not a problem! Bring us what you have, we will get started, and then bring in the additional information as it arrives.
 
If you have any questions regarding your personal tax return, please contact our office. Thank you for your help.

  • Nothing external to you has any power over you.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

Don’t Hide The WELCOME Mat

“No matter how busy you are, you must take time to make the other person feel important.” – Mary Kay Ash

You made it through March 15th. It was challenging and sometimes very stressful. You have another month of the busy season life before you can relax a little.

And then, it is those darn clients. They keep emailing you and calling you. Don’t they understand how busy you are?? You just want to hide from them!

welcomeIf you are working in public accounting, please never forget that you are in the service business. Compare it to being in a restaurant and you ask the waiter for a water refill or another glass of wine. He flippantly and quickly responds. “I’m too busy right now. You’ll have to wait.” How much of a gratuity would you leave? Would you return to that restaurant anytime soon?

I email a lot of CPA practitioners and have received a lot of clever “out of office” automated responses. Here are two examples of the bad and the good.

I was saddened to receive one similar to this:

Due to the tax deadlines, I will not be able to respond in a timely manner to voicemail or email. If you need immediate assistance please contact Sally (phone number) and she will get a staff member to assist you.

What kind of message does this send to your client base? How many clients will hang around until you are not so busy? Never let clients know you are TOO BUSY for them and their needs. I guess the above message is better than never hearing back at all.

A few years ago I received an automated message from a long-time client when I emailed him during busy season. This message was warm and welcoming and explained an acceptable process for the busy time of year.

Greetings, Friends & Clients:

Due to the normal tax season high workload and to allow me to completely focus on the tasks at hand, I am currently checking and responding to e-mail daily at 8:00 am, 1:00 pm and 5:30 pm CT. You & your email is important to me and at the scheduled times, I will respond.

If you require urgent assistance please contact my assistant Juli Moses at (he provided phone number) or you can email her at (he provided her email address).

Even though you get this auto-response, rest assured that I do receive and am able to view the email you sent. Thank you for understanding this move to more efficiency and effectiveness. It helps me accomplish more and serve you better.

Sincerely,

Mike Shost

CPAs are in a business filled with tax due dates. Never be too busy for your valuable clients. Always have the WELCOME MAT prominently displayed, in your responses and in your personal behaviors.

  • The busy have no time for tears.
  • Lord Byron

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

How Do You See Yourself?

“Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.” – Malcolm S. Forbes

A very interesting topic was explored in an article via Accounting Today last week by Bill Tsotsos – – Do accountants have low self-esteem?

In his opening, he describes what I have observed, first-hand, in dealing with probably thousands of CPAs over the last 30 years.

Many male CPAs, to me, have split personalities. Or, maybe to describe it better, they have a public persona and a private persona.

Outside the firm, they project (and I think many of them force themselves to do it) a fun-loving, knowledgeable, highly intelligent professional. They have all the answers and love to help clients. They love being around people.

Inside the firm, they display many of the characteristics listed in the article:

  • Poor communication skills and poor social skills;
  • Don’t make/sustain eye contact with others;
  • Don’t engage with others;
  • Don’t take risks (risk-averse);
  • Unable to discern who and when to trust;
  • Fear and anxiety of making a mistake, being rejected, looking foolish or inadequate;
  • Self-focused: Only viewing and thinking of what goes on around them on the basis of their own wants and needs; and,
  • Rigidity: Motivated by fear of doing something wrong and receiving negative feedback. Those with LSE seem to narrow their choices to be safe from erring.

Demonstrating these characteristics does not mean they do not care about their clients, their team members or the quality of services they provide.

I like to describe it as they are not truly aware of their worth, the value they bring to the marketplace. This always comes out when it is time to bill – – they dread billing the client for the dollars revealed in WIP and usually bill them less. They can’t imagine what value pricing would be like!

I once talked with a CPA partner, very well-known and respected in his business community. He built his image up over many years and yet he disclosed that he dreaded networking and when a client came in to talk one-on-one, his stomach hurt before the meeting because he was dreading it.

I have not observed as much of this “split” in female CPAs. They need more of the outside persona.

My message: YOU are worth it! You have spent thousands and thousands of dollars getting your education and keeping current on financial and tax topics. What’s in your head is VERY valuable to others – don’t under rate yourself.

You provide your clients with peace of mind. What a great mission – enjoy it.

  • You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.
  • Buddha

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Georgia Society of CPAs – March Madness

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“The key is not the will to win, everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.” – Bob Knight

Many thanks to the Georgia Society for featuring my article, Lessons Learned: Two Kinds of March Madness, in March/April 2017 issue of their magazine, Current Accounts.

I hope all of you who are members of the Georgia Society will read the magazine or access it online.

If you are a non-member, I will be using the article in my upcoming newsletter. You can subscribe here.

Hint: There is the AFMM March Madness and there is the NCAA March Madness. Of course, AFMM stands for Accounting Firm March Madness.

  • Once you are labeled - the best - you want to stay up there, and you can't do it by loafing around. If I don't keep changing, I'm history.
  • Larry Bird

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

If You Still Don’t Think Things Are Rapidly Changing – Take a Look at TALK

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” – John Wooden

Think about it. Things that used to take you hours and hours to complete can now be mastered in a matter of minutes. The CPA’s most important tool is technology.

I shudder because I still interact with some practitioners who are not even PAPERLESS! They still cannot review a tax return ON SCREEN!

Talk_logo_bright_green-07663d94ffbd16b53ca1e60cd21c721aLast week I received information about a new app called TALK. TALK can now do the books for a business owner – you should pay attention to this – for no other reason than to realize that change is coming very fast. To put it briefly, your client could talk to the app and it would do the bookkeeping.

Here’s the press release and below is a link to the website where you can watch a short video.

22 Million Small Business Owners and Sales People Struggle With
Bookkeeping and Mileage Tracking.  It Stops Today.

If you can take a picture of a receipt or sales order and talk into your phone, TALK does your books.

TALK Accounting of Tucson announced a new phone app today that lets anyone, regardless of their accounting skills, to stop worrying about bookkeeping or tax deductions.  

Founder KC Truby says “Because of new voice recognition and artificial intelligence, the process is 10- second simple. The app codes, verifies and post your transactions right into a spreadsheet, QuickBooks or other software.”

To assure accuracy TALK automatically double checks the transaction against your current list of customers, vendors and deductions, right before your eyes.  No more receipts.  No more lost deductions.  No more worries about IRS questions.

What if you forget to TALK in a credit card charge?  No problem.  TALK has partnered with Finicity to review all your credit and debit transactions daily. KC says “if we see you forgot to TALK about something, we’ll send you a notification at the end of the day asking for the missing details, long before you forget.”

Tax returns made easy.  When you get a 1099 or other critical documents in the mail just take a picture and talk about it.  The documents are stored online – ready for your accountant.  No more ‘all-nighters’ on April 15th looking for lost documents. 

IRS ready mileage logs, automatically. TALK has also partnered with Automatic.com to intercept a GPS recording of where your car has been. This is data directly from the vehicle without draining your phone’s battery. After a trip, TALK will quietly ask if you’d like to include a business purpose for the miles driven. Just answer the question in one sentence and you have an IRS ‘bomb proof’ log ready for expense reports or tax returns. 

No learning curve. TALK has teamed up with Fujitsu’s ScanSnap scanner for 1 button push to upload documents whenever needed from a scanner. On the app side, the artificial intelligence codes your transactions for you – that means you don’t need accounting skills, just follow the app’s instructions and you’re left with rock-solid books.

Here’s a link to more information on the TALK site. Be sure to watch the short video at the top of the page.

 

  • Never neglect details. When everyone's mind is dulled or distracted the leader must be doubly vigilant.
  • Colin Powell

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

Be Sure You Are Listening

“It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is what are we busy about?” – Henry David Thoreau

You have a lot on your plate, whether you are a partner or a first year team member. It’s a busy time and you are in a constant state of hurry-and-get-this-done.

Keep in mind that THE CLIENT is not realistically aware of the amount of work you are processing. They only know that you and your firm are taking care of THEM. It is important to remain focused on their needs and to keep in mind how you look from their viewpoint.

Never let them think you are TO BUSY for them.

Several years at my firm, we had a ban on the word BUSY. If anyone said the word they had to deposit a small fee into the busy jar. The theory was not to ever let clients, prospective clients and referral sources think we were too busy to take on NEW clients.

How do you communicate your intent? Here’s an example.

The firm that prepares my personal/business tax returns, Nolan Giere in Troy, Ohio, recently sent out their Winter 2017 newsletter. In the comments from the managing partner, Tom Giere states:

“We will do our best to fully understand your unique situation so we can do the very best job for you. We also encourage you to ask questions. We are not too busy, we do not mind the interruptions, and we know that the more informed you are the better can serve you.”

Be sure you are communicating to your clients that you WANT them to ask questions and that you don’t mind interruptions.

  • The time to relax is when you don't have time for it.
  • Sydney J. Harris

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