Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category
Tuesday, January 20th, 2015
CPA firms have all kinds of reasons why they are in the professional service business. We call it a mission, a vision, a purpose and some firm leaders spend a whole lot of time trying to define it with fancy words and catchy phrases.
I like to simplify, so I just refer to your mission in three words: Help clients succeed.
Helping clients is so much more than preparing an annual tax return or performing the annual audit. It is even more than helping them keep their books clean and up-to-date.
You, as a CPA, have a huge challenge – you sell something that no one wants! Who simply can’t wait to get their taxes prepared or what company loves it when the auditors come in?
What they do want is more of you…. more advice, a sounding-board, an idea person… someone they can go to when they have a question.
Are you proactive? Are you reading what they are reading? Do you know what trends “out there” you should be informing them about? Do you send them links to great articles that they should read?
Here’s a simple example… I recently became aware of a site that helps small business owners find the right software – FitSmallBusiness.com. The have free calculators, such as an SBA Loan Calculator, that you can embed or share with your clients.
Always be searching for ways you can Help Clients Succeed.
Spend a lot of time talking to customers face-to-face. You'd be amazed how many companies don't listen to their customers.
Tuesday, January 13th, 2015
Accountants, for the most part, are not known for the expert selling skills. Most have not worked at honing those skills like a professional sales person has. You have a good excuse….. you did not go into accounting to be a sales person.
If you are in PUBLIC accounting, you are wrong. You provide business owners and individuals with professional services. In the good old days, CPA practitioners just “hung out a shingle” and waited. Not sure if you have noticed but our world is no longer a world where it pays off to wait.
So the next time you are facing that meeting with a potential client, do not allow that nervous fear to build-up inside you. You begin feeling that you are not good enough. They will see right through you. Your competitors are “smoother” and more convincing. Many CPAs have felt this way. You might even feel this way when you are talking to current clients. You hesitate to offer them more services. They won’t want to pay you more money. They don’t see the value and you don’t convey it very well.
You are wrong. You DO have what it takes. You DO provide value. Consider the specialized knowledge you have spent years developing and the amazing experiences you have had helping clients face financial challenges.
You have what it takes and you are worth it. Just do your best.
This post was inspired by a newsletter from Chris Brogan.
You owe the universe a lot more than you have delivered so far.
Friday, December 26th, 2014
I posted something last year about the decline of voicemail. When I mention this during some of my presentations to accountants in public practice, they gasp.
Many accountants (and their clients) still live by leaving a voice message and then playing phone-tag for a couple of days. Many accountants instruct their Director of First Impressions to “put them into my voice mail”. I contend that it is often a way for some accountants to avoid talking with clients and others.
Recently, Coca-Cola’s office voice mail at the headquarters in Atlanta was disconnected. Put out to pasture, so to speak. An internal memo said that it was shut down “to simplify the way we work and increase productivity”.
Times have changed. Most people under 35 (even 40) rarely use voice mail.
I don’t expect CPA firms to quickly shut-down their voice mail systems but I do expect all of you to begin frequently using the new ways of communicating, such as texting. I know many experienced, mature CPAs who are using texts extensively.
For three days after death, hair and fingernails continue to grow but phone calls taper off.
Friday, December 12th, 2014
On Thursday December 11th, AccountingWEB hosted an event – AccountingWEB Live 2014.
Simply following the tweets and reviewing them this morning, gave me great insight and value. I say that because I want to once again stress to all CPAs, accountants and other leaders inside accounting firms – the value of Twitter.
At most of my live presentations, where I have many CPA firm leaders in the room, I ask, “How many of you are on Twitter?” Very, very few hands go up!!
One live comment from yesterday’s AccountingWEB Live was shocking: “I’m an accountant, I don’t need to tweet anything.” Oh, my….
Today, but tomorrow at the latest, set up a Twitter account and just READ. That’s how you begin. Follow a few people (like me @cpamanagement) and others who provide advice, education, news and even humor to the accounting profession. All the major CPA publications tweet, the AICPA tweets, your state society tweets, national and local news sources tweet. I use it to get all my news, each morning, in a quick and simple format.
Find other CPAs who are tweeting and see how they are using it to not only advise clients but to attract more.
Here’s a link to How To Set Up A Twitter Account - a few simple steps.
When you do begin tweeting, tweet meaningful stuff. The following quote is good advice.
I will count to ten before tweeting.
Friday, December 5th, 2014
I just read where Starbucks is going to make it even easier to get your coffee. They will be unveiling a newly updated Starbucks mobile app that allows you to buy coffee without standing in line to order or handing a cashier your phone to pay. A pilot program has been launched in Portland, Oregon to test it out.
Per an article on Fast Company, you will walk into Starbucks, past the line, tell the barista your name, and she hands you your tall latte with skim.
How easy is it for your clients to do business with you? Be honest and think about it.
Your quick answer would be, “we are definitely a client friendly firm, we bend over backwards for our clients.”
Here’s my observations:
A partner gets a phone call from a client via the office number. Director of First Impressions says to partner, “John Adams is on the line for you.” Partner is talking with a manager and says, “Tell him I’m on the phone and will call him back.”
Collection administrator talks with a client about a past-due invoice. Client says, “I need to talk to Tom (partner) about that invoice. Have him call me.” Collection administrator lets Tom know that Sam Client wants to talk to him about the past-due invoice. The next month, the Collection Administrator again calls the client and learns that Tom never did call the client. This goes on for several cycles.
Manager gets a call via mobile device and see that it is Ted Client who can be somewhat difficult. They do not answer the call, they let it go to voice mail because they know Ted is going to ask when he will get his tax return and it not out of review yet.
Director of First Impressions tells me, “Most of our accountants never answer their phone extension when it rings, they always let it go to voice mail.”
While no disservice is intended, CPAs often fall into these habits thinking they are possibly saving time. We have become accustomed to the convenience of voice mail. Is that client service?
When I make an unscheduled call to a CPA, even if it is returning their call, I rarely get through on the first try. If the person actually answers, I’m rather shocked.
A pet peeve for me – Do not have the person answering your office main line ask, “May I tell her who is calling?” It immediately tells the caller they might or might not be important enough to get through to the person they are calling. It really fries me when they ask what I am calling about. Here are the phone greeting skills many of us learned at Accountants’ Bootcamp years ago.
If we can keep our competitors focused on us while we stay focused on the customer, ultimately we'll turn out all right.
Wednesday, November 26th, 2014
Yes, clients can be trained. I know that you are thinking that the client is king/queen and whatever they want you need to provide, referring to it as QCS (quality client service).
Yet, firms that learn to manage and train their clients are not only able to attract more clients, they are able to create a culture where talented people will stay and build their careers.
Of course, talented people staying at your firm is the answer to the succession problem that continually gets so much attention.
Clients that drive your staff crazy (you all have them) should go. Immediately, partners say to me, “They pay us $100,000 per year!” It seems that many CPAs don’t really think that assisting difficult clients is an issue of client service, they look at it more honestly as I just mentioned…”they pay us a lot of money!”
I’ve known and talked extensively with many CPA partners over the years and here’s my assessment of what they are truly THINKING but not saying out loud to their partners: “Yes, we need to out-place a few very difficult and challenging clients… but those are NOT MY clients.”
Here’s what to do. Meet with your partners and identify the clients that give you headaches and heartburn; the ones that continually frustrate your team members. (I have a form I share for identifying that type of client.)
You have probably already done that… several times. But, that where it stalls – partner do not take action. This time take the next step. Set-up a meeting with those clients and have an honest conversation with them about what you and your firm expects from them in the future.
Try using a commitment statement – – identify the things you (your firm) will do and also define the things you expect from them, the client. (I also have a sample of this that you can use.)
After you have the face-to-face conversation with the client and discuss your expectations, if they are not willing to comply – let them go. Better yet, help them go.
Why not simply say, “We have valued you as a client but we don’t seem to be a good match any longer. Let me help you find a CPA firm that would be a good match for you.”
Next, set-up an on-boarding system for clients that clearly defines your expectations and give them a timeline for submitting their information. Preventive medicine is the best.
Okay, you have out-placed a few difficult clients. Now, maybe your team members can work less extended hours this coming busy season.
Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.
James Cash Penney
Tuesday, November 18th, 2014
Headline from Thomson Reuters: Accountants should embrace technology.
What a statement! Sad to learn that so many have really not. The following is from a Thomson Reuters executive at their recent users’ conference:
“Many accounting firms still favor dated and inefficient ways of doing business, effectively trying to serve their clients in the same manner they always have, even though that world may no longer exist,” said Jon Baron, managing director of the Professional segment in the Tax & Accounting business of TR. He continued: “Overall client experience matters more today than it has before. It’s no longer enough to provide after-the-fact reporting and compliance work.”
The last sentence in the paragraph above is something I have been hearing for over 25 years!
A Thomson Reuters recent survey of accounting firms found:
- Nearly 40% reported no offering a firm website.
- More than one-third are not leveraging a document management system.
- Only 16% reported the use of cloud applications in the firm.
- Almost three-fourths reported that the primary method of delivering completed tax returns to the client is a paper copy.
Read more in this article via CPA Practice Advisor.
Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.
Monday, November 17th, 2014
Studies tell us that the ability to choose what you work on, as well as how, when and where you perform your work is a growing priority for talented professionals across sectors and industries, and one of the core elements of a fulfilling career – via Harvard Business Review
What if, when scheduling your upcoming busy season work, you gave your people a voice in their assignments? You will probably need to experiment with it the first year and tweak it going forward… but simply ask them – What engagements did you enjoy the most last year? What engagements would you immediately pass along to someone else if given the opportunity? Use the data as you schedule.
What if, this busy season, since CPA professionals need to work some extended hours and often on Saturdays, you allowed them to work from home one entire day during the week?
Some companies are giving their people the perk of using 4 weeks per year (20 days) to work remotely (from home or where ever). What if your firm provided this perk for your experienced people?
Gather your leaders and discuss what other choices you could easily give your valuable team members. Never forget… it’s all about retaining top talent.
Be miserable. Or, motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it's always your choice.
Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
Wednesday, October 29th, 2014
In a recent newsletter from August Aquila of Aquila Global Advisors, August identified some of the things partners need to do to help the firm be successful.
There is a critical link between partner behavior and what the firm is trying to achieve. Here’s a list to give to all of your partners. Then discuss it and then do it.
Being a leader means partners must:
- Make a personal economic contribution
- Bring in new business
- Bring the firm’s resources to their clients
- Pass work to their colleagues
- Develop their people’s capabilities
- Persuade their people to join the partners on the journey and to play a part in building a better firm
- Help their colleagues and, through them, the firm
- Live the firm’s values all day, every day
- Never be satisfied with second best
- Be role models for high performance and judgment, the people members of the firm turn to for inspiration and help
- Stand up and be counted
Read Aquila’s newsletter article here.
The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Thursday, October 23rd, 2014
As I talk with CPA practitioners and their teams around the country, the minute QBO is mentioned (QuickBooks Online), the whining begins. I’m talking serious whining here!
I think you know by now, I am here to convey honesty and insight into the world of CPA firm management. I try to offer solutions and alternatives to every issue. That’s why I am addressing this QBO issue.
For years and years I have heard anguish and pain about the different “versions” of QB and how difficult it is to keep CPA firm clients on the most recent version of QB. Some firms report that they must keep a significant number of QB versions active on their servers just to serve the clients. Some firms have even adopted a policy to force all clients to stay current on versions.
All of that, of course, would be solved with an online version and the phasing out of all desktop versions. That is what Intuit is doing.
It doesn’t seem to be going so well, so far. Users and practitioners are stirred-up and very negative. The most positive comment I have heard about QBO is “Well, it has its limitations.”
Please note, I am not a user. I cannot do anything but communicate what I am hearing and reading and offer possible solutions.
As with most issues involving significant change, people (users) will get used to it. But, for now, this move to the cloud does not seem like an enjoyable experience.
Yesterday on AccountingWeb, Nate Stewart wrote, “Why QuickBooks’ Cloud Bet Matters To Everyone.” He notes that Intuit says, “QuickBooks Online is the future and it’s better to go with the tide than against it.”
Here’s a review by PC Magazine and it compares similar products.
When I read articles like these online, I always view the comments (I urge you to do the same). Sometimes they are very insightful. One comment seemed to be aligned with what I actually hear from CPA firm users, “With 15 years experience using Quickbooks both online and PC/MAC versions, I can honestly say avoid the online version like the plague.”
I’m sure it will get better, so be patient but I also recommend exploring options like Xero and others.
Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.
A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh