Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Finger-Pointing

“I praise loudly. I blame softly.” – Catherine the Great

Occasionally, something goes wrong on a client engagement. Somebody didn’t follow procedures. Someone talked to the client and didn’t pass along the information. A client phone call got lost in the shuffle and didn’t get returned. The list could go on and on.

When this happens inside some firms, the finger-pointing game begins….. “The manager didn’t tell me I had to do that…. The staff person didn’t do what I told them… I put the client note in the file…. I think admin didn’t follow up…. ” Again, the list of accusations and excuses can go on and on.

In the best firms, there is no obsession with placing blame. Leaders and team members put little emphasis on the past, they focus on the future. They focus on how to fix things so that the mistake doesn’t happen again. They learn from mistakes.

Here’s a motto I want you to adopt at your firm:

Don’t worry about why it went wrong. Just put it right!

  • I pay no attention whatever to anybody's praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

Make Them Feel Important

“Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

When your clients, prospects and others call your office, through the main line, do they feel welcome? Or, do they feel interrogated and unimportant?

Many successful accounting firms have adopted a “no inquiry” method of greeting callers. The person answering the phone answers with your firm standard greeting, identifies themselves and puts the call through immediately to the person the caller has requested. That person almost always answers the phone when it rings.

I wanted to review this today because I call a lot of CPA firms. When I reach a firm where the Director of First Impressions “screens” me I really do feel somewhat offended and think “I guess she is determining if I am important enough.” Some not only want your name, they continue and ask, “May I tell him/her what this is about?”

Just to clarify:

  • Whether you like it or not, screening calls puts a barrier between you and your clients.
  • Whether you like it or not, your client feels slightly insulted when they’re asked to state their name and a reason for calling.
  • Whether you like it or not, most clients hate it.
  • Whether you like it or not, many clients believe the only reason they’re being interrogated is so that you can be “out” when they call – – that is, it’s a “nice” way of telling them you’re there but you don’t want to talk with them. Actually, it’s an awful way of doing it and it’s dishonest.
  • Whether you like it or not, if you don’t know who’s on the phone, you have to answer it right away.

Sure, someone you might not want to talk to might be calling. Being a business professional, you can handle those easily by dismissing them quickly and professionally.

Sometimes I feel like most business professionals let every incoming call, whether through their office number or their mobile device, go to voice mail thinking they will handle it later.

Wouldn’t it make your firm stand-out if your professionals didn’t use the phone to dodge calls?

Read more about this, plus learn Action Steps for Phone Greeting via a blog post from October, 2012.

  • Great men show politeness in a particular way; a smile suffices to assure you that you are welcome, and keep about their avocations as if you were a member of the family.
  • John James Audobon

Monday, May 15th, 2017

About Your Clients

“Success comes from doing what you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy it, how can it be called success?” – David Maister

Hopefully, tax season is a distant memory and you are on your way to achieving your strategic goals for 2017.

Stop a minute and think about the clients you served from January through April and those that are on extension.

Some of those clients you probably wish you didn’t have.

Here are three important questions (from David Maister, that you should apply to your clients):

About your clients:

I like these people and their sector interests me.

I can tolerate them.

I wish I didn’t have to deal with people like this!

Those that fall into the last category…. you know what you should do with them. Why not do it in 2017?

  • More than any other factor, it is the people we have to deal with that determine the quality of our work lives.
  • David Maister

Monday, May 8th, 2017

Delay and Millennials – Not A Good Combination

“Life is like a 10-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.” – Charles M. Schulz

Think about it. Millennials have always had technology at their finger tips. The oldest Millennials are 37 years old this year. They are not kids and many are your employees and your clients.

As consumers, they do not expect delays. They are used to having access almost immediately to any kind of information via their mobile device. When making purchases, they are used to having their information (profile) “out there” so they don’t even have to spend time entering specific billing and shipping information. It is not just Millennials, we are all now used to speed when shopping on line.

The younger generation is also used to obtaining answers by looking at FAQ pages rather than calling a customer service rep. According to a Desk.com study, 80% of Millennials find calling customer service highly inconvenient.

Consider how this information relates to your accounting firm.

Your Clients:

Much of your current and most of your future client base expect information quicker. They do not want to wait until you can return their phone call – 4 hours later.

How user friendly and interactive is your website? Do you have a FAQ page to help people learn about and understand CPA services?

Your Employees:

Do your employees have to wait on performance feedback? I often hear about firms that have delayed the feedback scheduled for June until November or December!

Do your employees have to wait, maybe a week or more, on review notes that guide them as they work on client engagements?

Do your employees have to wait days to talk to a partner (the partner is out of the office, on the phone, in meetings, etc.)?

Do your employees have to wait YEARS to be promoted? Telling a new college grad that it might take 10 years to become a partner could be quite a shock.

As a partner group, do you table a decision until the next partner meeting… then the next partner meeting… and then the next partner meeting?

Beginning now, explore ways to speed things up at your firm…. or, you will find your firm lagging behind in many areas.

  • The speed of the leader is the speed of the gang.
  • Mary Kay Ash

Friday, April 28th, 2017

“For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Because of all the concerns about cybersecurity and the opportunity that it provides for CPAs to provide cybersecurity-related assurance services, I wanted to share a press release from the AICPA this week.

AICPA Unveils Cybersecurity Risk Management Reporting Framework

Voluntary Engagement Will Help Companies and Auditors Communicate Cyber Risk Readiness

NEW YORK (April 26, 2017) – At a time when organizations around the world are facing cybersecurity attacks, it is more important than ever for them to demonstrate to key stakeholders the extent and effectiveness of their cybersecurity risk management efforts. To help businesses meet this growing challenge, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has introduced a market-driven, flexible and voluntary cybersecurity risk management reporting framework.

“Cybersecurity threats are escalating, thereby unnerving boards of directors, managers, investors and customers of businesses of all sizes – whether public or private,” said Susan S. Coffey, CPA, CGMA, AICPA executive vice president for public practice. “While there are many methods, controls and frameworks for developing cybersecurity risk management programs, until now there hasn’t been a common language for companies to communicate about, and report on, these efforts.”

The AICPA’s new framework will enable all organizations – in industries worldwide – to take a proactive and agile approach to cybersecurity risk management and to communicate on those activities with stakeholders. Two resources that support reporting under the framework are being released today:

  • Description criteria – For use by management in explaining its cybersecurity risk management program in a consistent manner and for use by CPAs to report on management’s description.
  • Control criteria – Used by CPAs providing advisory or attestation services to evaluate and report on the effectiveness of the controls within a client’s program.

A third resource for CPAs will be available in May:

  • Attest guide – This guidance, Reporting on an Entity’s Cybersecurity Risk Management Program and Controls, will be published next month to assist CPAs engaged to examine and report on an entity’s cybersecurity risk management program.

Building on CPAs’ experience in auditing information technology controls, the AICPA’s Assurance Services Executive Committee identified the emerging need for cybersecurity-related assurance services. The goal was to enable companies to more effectively communicate the robustness of their cybersecurity risk management programs to key stakeholders.

“The framework we have developed will serve as a critical step to enabling a consistent, market-based mechanism for companies worldwide to explain how they’re managing cybersecurity risk,” Coffey explained. “We believe investors, boards, audit committees and business partners will see tremendous value in gaining a better understanding of organizations’ cybersecurity risk management efforts. That information, combined with the CPA’s opinion on the effectiveness of management’s efforts, will increase stakeholders’ confidence in organizations’ due care and diligence in managing cybersecurity risk.”

For more information and links to valuable resources for CPAs providing cybersecurity advisory and assurance services, visit our Cybersecurity Resource Center.

  • Man maintains his balance, poise, and sense of security only as he is moving forward.
  • Maxwell Maltz

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

Know Your Competition

“It is nice to have valid competition; it pushes you to do better.” – Gianni Versace

As I have interacted with many firms over the years, I have observed that some partners are not worried at all about their competition and some partners are almost obsessed with beating their competition.

No matter your degree of concern, it is a good practice to be aware of your competition, their strengths and their weaknesses. In reality, they are strongly targeting your best clients (just like you are targeting theirs).

As Jeffrey Gitomer (sales guru) says, it is a sales war and winner take all. He also suggests some Competition Success Strategies:

  • Speak kindly of your competition, or say nothing.
  • Respect competition, and others will respect you.
  • If others speak negatively about anything or anyone, DO NOT join in.
  • Know your competition’s weaknesses, but focus on your strength and value.
  • Know why they won, when you should have.
  • Know how they speak about you, and build response into your presentation.
  • Know how to beat them until they hate you (hating them is a waste of energy).
  • Your only victory is when you get the job.

Read more here.

  • Do your work with your whole heart, and you will succeed - there's so little competition.
  • Elbert Hubbard

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

The Old Way Comes Back As The New Way

Many of you can remember when we had paper “in boxes” on our desks. We also had “out boxes”. Mail, memos, and other miscellaneous communication documents were placed in our in-box by our secretary (remember that word?). The same person emptied our out-box and distributed our notes, memos and job assignments to the proper person within the firm.

Often the in-box contained items that we would place in a “do it later pile.” That pile on our desk could attain dangerous heights.

Then, many of us learned how to handle each piece of paper that came into our office mostly via the in-box. The trick was to only handle it once – not to put it in a stack with other things we intended to deal with later. Concerning each document we were to Act, File, Delegate or Trash – no “deal with it later” labels were allowed.

Now we are in the age of handling the multitude of items that appear in our digital in-box. In a recent article via Fast Company, Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit, sums up his email approach as “read, act, file or delete.” By limiting his options he is able to clear his in-box daily without the help of an assistant. Smith notes, “It requires real commitment.”

If the CEO of Intuit can master his in-box, I bet you can do it, too!

Another option is NOT TO SEND many emails and thus, you will receive fewer in reply.

Here’s another email comment from Simon Sinek. “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.”

To avoid phone tag, I always make telephone appointments with people who wish to discuss things with me.

 

  • Social media presents an opportunity for business people to connect and know each other prior to a phone call or email taking place.
  • Jeffrey Gitomer

Friday, April 21st, 2017

International Understanding

“The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.” – Peter Drucker

Not that many years ago, CPA firms in the U.S.A. didn’t need to know much about international affairs. In fact, most people in firms never even thought about international implications.

All that has changed. Even some very small firms now have international clients and U.S. clients operating internationally.

If you work for a large corporation, accepting international assignments is expected if you want to advance your career.

Reading an article on HBR – Will refusing an International Assignment Derail Your Career? – made me think about what CPA firms are doing to educate their workforce about the business aspects of international operations.

In many firms there are partners who are well versed in international business. But, how far down the ladder does this type of knowledge go?

My questions for millennial CPAs, will the lack of international business knowledge and experience derail your career?

  • If people like you, they'll listen to you, but if they trust you, they'll do business with you.
  • Zig Ziglar

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Your Cultural Norm

“Courtesy is as much a mark of a gentleman as courage.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Sometimes it is the little things that make up what your firm culture is really like.

  • When a client has left a voice message for you to call them back, do you do it right away or procrastinate for a day or more?
  • Partners often short-cut firm processes.
  • When the front desk person is really busy and the phone rings more than three times, does almost everyone ignore it?
  • When the coffee pot is empty, the last person simply puts it back on the burner and walks away.
  • When the printer is out of paper, the next user simply decides to use another printer rather than load paper.
  • When a client is sitting in the lobby, employees pass through and just ignore them.
  • Yes, when there is no toilet paper left on the roll in the wash room, it is simply ignored by most people.

Or, do you really have a culture of caring, teamwork and passion for the firm?

  • Client calls are returned (almost always) within 4 to 6 hours.
  • No one dodges an incoming telephone call.
  • All partners set a good example.
  • Partners and team members never hesitate to pick up trash in the parking lot.
  • Everyone cleans up messes in the lunch room and makes coffee.
  • “It’s not my job” is never even a fleeting thought among the team.
  • Someone occasionally brings in Starbucks coffee and treats for the lunch room.
  • People seem almost anxious to tell outsiders where they work and how great it is.
  • Partners return reviewed jobs within a day or let you know why they can’t and when it will be returned.

Just contemplating, this morning, how firm cultures are built. If you don’t help build a firm culture one will form anyway – on its own – and it might not be what you want it to be.

  • Our culture runs on coffee and gasoline, the first often tasting like the second.
  • Edward Abbey

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

IMPORTANT TOPIC: Can What You Are Doing Be Done By Artificial Intelligence?

“Some people worry that artificial intelligence will make us feel inferior, but the, anybody in his right mind should have an inferiority complex every time he looks at a flower.” – Alan Kay

PLEASE, please read this great blog post by Seth Godin. Here’s the closing paragraph:

The question each of us has to ask is simple (but difficult): What can I become quite good at that’s really difficult for a computer to do one day soon? How can I become so resilient, so human and such a linchpin that shifts in technology won’t be able to catch up?

It was always important, but now it’s urgent.

So much of what accountants do can and will eventually be done by AI. Think about how it has already happened inside your firm. A simple exmple, we used to turn in an expense report – now an app does that for us – and so on.

In the world of blockchain, things will happen without your involvement. How will that play into the future of your firm? You must keep current and keep ahead of the curve. The things that happen might change how you do things but it doesn’t have to make you obsolete – there will be new and different opportunities for progressive firms.

  • It's going to be interesting to see how society deals with artificial intelligence, but it will definitely be cool.
  • Colin Angle