Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

Painful Procrastination

“Even if you’re on the right track – you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” – Arthur Godfrey

You continually face due dates. The major ones are painful.

You end up in a fire-drill mode to serve those last-minute clients. Sometimes the fire drills are even caused by you because of improper processes, procedures, and staffing.

Don’t let procrastination become a part of your firm culture and your daily life.

According to a post via Cornerstone University, procrastination can also affect us emotionally. For humans to maintain a fulfilling existence, we must have a sense of purpose and generate ongoing accomplishments. Failure here may lead to low self-esteem and a lack of ambition.

Read the entire post – Delay, Delay, Delay: How to Manage and Overcome Procrastination so it Doesn’t Manage You.

When it comes to those procrastinating clients, share this article with them. Explain how their tardiness has a negative effect on your entire team. Ask for their understanding and help. (It’s called training the client!). If they don’t co-operate, find them another accountant. Life is too short for all the stress these clients cause.

  • Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.
  • Jim Rohn

Monday, September 17th, 2018

Due Date Decisions

“You’ve done it before and you can do it now. See the positive possibilities. Redirect the substantial energy of your frustration and turn it into positive, effective, unstoppable determination.” – Ralph Marston

The extended due date is here.

You and your team have been working very hard during a time of year when you should not have to work so hard.

You have those fire-drill clients that almost always hold you hostage right up until the drop-dead extension deadline. It is frustrating. Your team wonders why you put up with these clients.

Why do you? Putting extra strain and frustration on your employees in times where employees are valuable and new ones are difficult to cultivate doesn’t seem like a good plan.

Use this client retention analysis form to help you sort out which clients to outplace.

Or, just ask your employees to vote for 5 clients that they would enjoy seeing gone from the client list.

 

  • Hope fills the holes in my frustration in my heart.
  • Emanuel Cleaver

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018

Fire Drill Clients

“Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others.” – Tom Robbins

September 15th is approaching rapidly. You are so unhappy with those clients that ignore all of your requests for their information. Once the fire drill is over, take time to review your client list and decide on the ones that simply must go.

According to Arvid Mostad, President of Mostad & Christensen, Inc., a well-known supplier of quality marketing materials to the CPA profession, here are the 15 habits of bad clients:
  1. Slow paying or non-payment of fees.
  2. Write-downs always exceed write-ups.
  3. Client frequently complains about billings.
  4. Client is unwilling to pay for added services.
  5. Not profitable when compared to other clients.
  6. Personality conflict with partners and staff.
  7. Client conduct makes staff uncomfortable.,
  8. Client is abusive to staff, even if civil to partners.
  9. Client fails to cooperate or provide information on a timely basis.
  10. Client doesn’t listen to advice given, then complains about results.
  11. Client projects are always on a crisis time schedule.
  12. Client expresses lack of trust in the firm’s work.
  13. Client is less than truthful.
  14. Client has taken on new ventures outside the firm’s area of expertise.
  15. Client’s activities expose the firm to liability.

Use this list to help identify the clients that need to be referred elsewhere.

  • Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion . . . . I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.
  • Kurt Vonnegut

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

Establish An Email Policy

“Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” – Joshua J. Marine

Not sure why, but many CPAs seem to have a fascination with retaining emails. I have talked to some who admit that they have thousands in their inbox that might date back two or three years or more.

I like a comment in the article I featured last week about M&A and technology. An acquiring firm gets IT involved during due diligence to start educating the firm being acquired about retention policies. When your data comes over to the new system, all of your email older than six months will go away. You need to move client emails to the client file.

How would some of your partners feel about that? If you are a smaller firm and have not implemented these essential types of IT policies, start preparing now.

  • When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.
  • Helen Keller

Friday, August 31st, 2018

Flashback Friday – Keep Clients Coming Back

“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that our strength lies.” – Mother Teresa

Why do clients keep coming back? Here’s a flashback post to help you be the kind of firm that people want to do business with.

Clients judge you on the little things!

  • One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.
  • John F. Kennedy

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

Emergencies

“Great emergencies and crises show us how much greater our vital resources are than we had supposed.” – William James

I don’t often use a complete post by Seth Godin. However, this one hits so close to home for CPAs that I just had to share it right here – so you will read it!

Another important due date is approaching. So many of you tell me that much of the stress is caused by clients who fail to provide information. Then it becomes a fire drill to complete their tax return by the due date causing stress and frustration for the entire team. His first paragraph is exactly you. 

You must charge a significantly higher fee for emergencies. If those tardy clients won’t pay it then let them go elsewhere. Quit complaining about these clients and take steps to solve the situation.

Emergencies Cost Extra

If you work in a field where things need to be delivered by date certain, with zero defects, with high consequences if you make a mistake—then you need to charge a premium for exposing yourself to emergencies.

It doesn’t matter what something in a non-emergency situation costs. If someone wants the standard version, let them buy that.

The buyer is offered to pull it off the shelf, see if you like it. If it doesn’t satisfy you, take a different one.

Emergencies (or even the risk of emergencies) cost extra. Yelling at us costs extra. Panic costs extra.

Your entire organization (and your entire day) revolves around preventing the emergency or recovering from it when it occurs.

The reason custom work costs more is no longer a matter of production efficiency. Computers are happy to customize things.

Big companies that serve other big companies spend at least 80% of their overhead on being ready (or dealing with) meetings and emergencies.

The reason to charge more is all about ensurance, insurance and emotional wear and tear.

If that’s the sort of work you want to do, charge appropriately.

  • History is a relentless master. It has no present, only the past rushing into the future. To try to hold fast is to be swept aside.
  • John F. Kennedy

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018

Client Service

“There are two paths, really: “I will serve just enough to make the maximum profit” or “I will profit just enough to provide the maximum service.” – Seth Godin

Managing an accounting firm means juggling a lot of balls.

I have observed that often, firm leaders permit client service to gradually slip down the list of priorities.

New clients get so much attention. They are courted throughout the pursuit process. They receive lots of information from the firm. They are continually in touch with the partner assigned and several other team members who are serving them. Their calls are always taken or at least returned within a couple hours. They are special and you want them to feel that way.

Often, long-term, loyal clients seem to be forgotten. Of course, they receive good service during the annual engagement. But how often do you “touch” them throughout the year? Do they get recognized because they always pay on time? Do they receive links to articles about their industry from you? Does the firm acknowledge special life events for clients like a child’s graduation or marriage?

I have modified an old saying for you – – – “Get new clients but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold.”

  • There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.
  • Sam Walton

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

Skilled Leaders Know How to Delegate

“The really expert riders of horses let the horse know immediately who is in control, but then guide the horse with loose reins and seldom use the spurs.” – Sandra Day O’Connor

It is a common problem inside accounting firms. As people gain experience and move up the ladder – staff to senior, senior to manager, manager to senior manager, senior manager to partner – they often cling to familiar work and hesitate to delegate.

It is a big step to move from doing to leading. You want to develop successors. You need future leaders for your firm. Delegate.

I have observed that in many accounting firms, partners are doing manager work and managers are doing senior work, seniors are doing staff work and staff are looking for work.

Why not reverse this long-time tradition? Adopt a different long-time tradition used at the large national firms – push work down to the lowest skill level. Staff members are super busy, seniors are pressing managers for more challenging work and managers are managing seniors and staff and asking partners how they can lighten their load. Partners are doing consulting work, maintaining client relationships, mentoring young people and most importantly, bringing in new business.

As you gain more experience and get promoted if you don’t delegate you will soon find yourself coming in earlier, staying later and feeling like the firm cannot survive without you.

I like this passage from an HBR article – How to be a great leader, you have to learn how to delegate well.

While it may seem difficult, elevating your impact requires you to embrace an unavoidable leadership paradox: You need to be more essential and less involved. When you justify your hold on work, you’re confusing being involved with being essential. But the two are not the same — just as being busy and being productive are not necessarily equal.

As you address your workload this week, take a moment and ask yourself – How can I be more essential and less involved?

  • Trust is the glue of life. It's the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It's the foundational principle that holds all relationships.
  • Stephen Covey

Thursday, August 9th, 2018

Outsourced Accounting

“Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.” – Anton Chekhov

CPA firms are seeing amazing growth in the area of outsourced accounting services. It not only is of immediate value to clients, it also provides the accountant with the ability (and information) to become even more of a trusted advisor.

Recently, Bill.com released the results of a survey they did regarding the use of outsourced accounting services. They have furnished a report on their findings – What Businesses Really Think of Client Accounting Services. You can download the report here.

In the introduction, Bill.com founder, Rene Lacerte, notes:

We are a nation of outsourcers.

In our personal lives, we outsource both simple and complex tasks—everything from grocery shopping to planning for retirement. We aren’t lazy or incapable, but we know that if we let the experts handle these tasks, they will be done right and allow us time to focus on what matters most. Outsourcing reinforces our priorities.

Businesses, too, are well acquainted with outsourcing. Disciplines ranging from IT to customer support to HR have all found their ways to hire experienced professionals outside of the corporate structure. Now, outsourcing all accounting is gaining traction.

The accounting profession has talked about client accounting advisory services (CAS) for a decade, speculating on the best ways a firm can solicit and handle all of a company’s accounting and finance department needs. For accountants, holding the reins to the company’s financial performance gives them unparalleled insight into the business and the ability to surpass a transactional state in favor of strategic advice and planning. It creates the platform for impactful contributions.

While accountants understand the benefits of CAS, what do businesses think about outsourcing their accounting? If you’re considering starting or expanding your CAS practice, it is good insight to have before you begin.

In this survey with CPA.com, we asked more than 1,700 small and medium-size businesses to share their opinions on outsourcing accounting. The results are summarized in the following pages. Respondents told us how much they’re outsourcing today, what they’d like to outsource, what they appreciate about it, and how it benefits their customers.

The survey data underscores just how important CAS can be to both firms and their business clients and how it will continue to grow and gain even greater value in the accounting world.

  • Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.
  • William Shakespeare

Thursday, July 26th, 2018

Busy vs. Busyness

“Leadership is about creating change you believe in.” – Seth Godin

I just had to share a post by Seth Godin. It is so right-on for the CPA profession. The title is Business/Busyness. I sincerely hope you take just a couple minutes to read the entire post.

You (and all your team members) are busy, but are you productive? Productivity is the amount of useful output created for every hour of work we do.

Take note of number three in his post. Productivity suffers when you are waiting – Waiting on answers from a partner, waiting on tech support, waiting on clients.

What are you going to do about the time killer – waiting on clients? The lost time wasted on clients who keep you waiting could be better spent on the kind of clients who value your services and your team.

Godin states: Busy is not your job. Busy doesn’t get you what you seek. Busy isn’t the point. Value creation is. 

You only get today once. Your team does too. How will you spend it?

  • People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic.
  • Seth Godin