Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category

Thursday, December 9th, 2021

Increasing Fees

“Every year, review clients and decide who should be culled.” – Bill Reeb, CPA

If you have been at the grocery store lately you have probably been shocked at the increases in prices. I know I have!

Suppliers and companies are facing more costs of doing business such as increasing wages and benefits for their employees. So have CPA firms.

Some firms are notifying their clients about an increase in fees. It is time to notify your clients about a more significant fee increase this year than in past years.

One of my long-time friends from the CPA Firm Management Association has allowed me to share an example of their firm’s letter to clients, as follows:

Like many businesses, we are seeing rising expenses due to the
pandemic, changing laws, supply chain issues, and overall escalating
cost trends. Specifically, there have been dramatic cost increases
in sustaining our workforce, benefits, software, supplies and
technology.
In order to keep pace with these changes, we will be increasing our
fees. For the preparation of your 2021 income tax returns, our
minimum service fee will increase by a percentage range of 11% –
20%. This new fee is calculated based on the scope of your 2020
work. If the 2021 work includes extra complexities as compared to
2020, the fee may increase by a greater percentage. This shift in
pricing will also come with increased value as we hope to serve as
your financial and tax resource throughout the year.

It is better to let your clients know ahead of time rather than be surprised when they receive your invoice. Now is NOT the time to afraid of losing some clients.

  • We have to up our game when it comes to managing our firms.
  • Bill Reeb

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

Skimpflation

“Courtesy is the one coin you can never have too much of or be stingy with.” – John Wanamaker

Have you been reading about skimpflation?

The quality of service, in various places like The Magic Kingdom, airlines, restaurants, etc. have deteriorated since the beginning of the pandemic. It is a problem that the NPR show “Planet Money” has labeled “skimpflation.”

The definition of skimp: expend or use less time, money, or material on something than is necessary in an attempt to economize.

Many businesses, especially small businesses have skimped in order to stay alive. Airlines cancel flights and put people on hold on the phone for hours. Some restaurants have eliminated menus and you must use your phone to see what is offered. Hotels and stores provide fewer services than in the past. Service seems to be very poor just about everywhere. Much of this is because businesses are simply understaffed.

Per NPR: While it may lurk in the shadows, make no mistake: Skimpflation is a form of inflation. As with normal inflation, it means we’re getting less for our money.

Read more about it here and consider the service in your own firm. I have talked to CPA firms who are concerned about obtaining new clients because they fear they won’t be able to offer the awesome client service they were once able to provide.

It is important that your long-time clients don’t feel that they are not getting the same level of service they have received in the past.

Are you guiding your small business clients through the minefield of skimpflation?

  • Fear will make you stingy.
  • Kenneth Copeland

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2021

Communication to Clients

“Assumptions are the termites of relationships.” – Henry Winkler

Late last week I received a nice notice from one of my clients. It is what they sent to all of their clients letting them know that their offices will be closed for Thanksgiving on Thursday and Friday next week and that they will return to the office on Monday, November 29.

It had a very tasteful Happy Thanksgiving picture message, too.

Do you notify your clients of events like this one? Sure, you think they just know that you will be closed for two days for Thanksgiving but do all of them “just know?” Don’t ever assume.

  • Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say infinitely when you mean very; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.
  • C. S. Lewis

Thursday, November 18th, 2021

Lights, Camera… Action!

“I always thought acting was all lights, camera, action. It’s a job; you have to do your job correctly.” – Corey Haim

November is passing quickly. You are probably spending a lot of time getting ready for the busiest time of the year. There is a need for enhanced focus on how your serve your clients and how your serve your staff.

Tax season is the time that firm owners and all their team members take the stage and step into the spotlight. “Lights, camera, action!” – the term they use when making movies definitely applies. It is your time, as a firm, to shine. You are about to be a hero for your clients.

All of this applies to those of you inside CPA firms who are “the bosses.” It will be a challenging time for the people you supervise. Acknowledgment and encouragement are the order of the day. It’s time for you to take your role as the Director of the movie very seriously and extract the best possible performance from your cast and crew.

When things are running smoothly and people are doing good work for the clients, don’t forget to recognize efforts. Things will go wrong at times, seems they always do. If a mistake happens, recover rapidly – be honest, make amends and move on quickly. It seems that people (you, your clients, and your team) always remember bad things and often forget about all the good things that happen.

I’m not sure what you can do about the bad things, except try, desperately try, not to mess anything up. If you do, try to mend fences (and your reputation) before you move on. 

You are now in the rehearsal stage. Keep rehearsing (getting ready) so that when it’s time to say, “Lights, camera, action!” everyone is ready to give their best performance.

  • All the real work is done in the rehearsal period.
  • Donald Pleasence

Monday, November 15th, 2021

Hang On To Your Team

“That’s what I consider true generosity: You give your all and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.” – Simone de Beauvoir

Over the weekend, I read the latest news from the Associated Press. – – Americans quit their jobs at a record pace for the second straight month in September, while businesses and other employers posted a near-record number of available jobs.

Employees have become empowered and are quitting to take the higher pay that is being offered by employers who are desperate for workers.

I have observed, that some CPA firms are not doing what is necessary to retain the best and the brightest (or even the average) employee.

Some firms are still paying interns $15.00 or $16.00 per hour. I asked some more progressive CPA firms what they are paying for interns for 2022 and learned they are paying $20 to $28 per hour. Of course, geographic location makes a difference but none were paying less than $20.

The more progressive firms have already given significant salary increases and stay bonuses. If you have not done this, these firms will be attracting YOUR people. I have no proof, but I am hearing that the largest accounting firms are giving a signing bonus of $75,000 for a Manager and $100,000 for a Senior Manager.

Firms are also taking steps to outplace troublesome and nonprofitable clients because they want to maintain awesome client service to their best clients. They can’t do that if they do not have the man/woman power.

Now is not a time for CPA firm shareholders to be greedy. You have to give your team lots of little things (perks), but you also have to give them money.

Read the AP article here.

  • You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, November 10th, 2021

Jargon

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” ~Albert Einstein

If you have been working in public accounting for even a short time I bet you are using accounting jargon. We all know what, “Are we doing their 1120-S?” means. Cash or accrual are common terms. Actually, many phrases we use can be considered accounting jargon.

Definition: Noun: Jargon – special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand.

According to a Quickbooks report (a few years ago), only 40% of business owners surveyed considered themselves to be very knowledgeable in the areas of accounting and finance.

Things like GAAP, IFRS, AR, AP, Accruals, Accrual Basis, Cashflow Statement, even Balance Sheet are unfamiliar terms to many of your business owners. Now, we have PPP and CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act). Could you even recite the official name?

And then there is all that stuff that follows your name on the website: CPA, CITP, CGMA, PFS, ABV, ASA. All of that might be overwhelming to a new client, even scare some away!

Never forget that many clients (that pay you a lot of money), might not be very clear on exactly what you are saying.

The AICPA even has a resource called CPEA. Of course, that stands for Center for Plain English Accounting.

Always explain things simply and thoroughly. Save the jargon for conversations between peers inside the firm.

You want the word on the street to be that you, always explain things clearly and you take the time to help clients understand the services you provide.

  • Our life is frittered away by detail... simplify, simplify!
  • Henry David Thoreau

Monday, November 8th, 2021

Working Harder Won’t Fix It

“Without changing our patterns of thought, we will not be able to solve the problems that we created with our current patterns of thought.” ~Albert Einstein

In public accounting, working long hours and achieving chargeable hour goals is considered the way to providing quality client service.

You believe that your client service (your work) is better than your competitor. Your competitor thinks the same about you.

So, to provide the best service you ask your team to show more effort and work more hours. You will never accomplish your goal of great service by expending more effort.

Instead, look at your systems. Providing the most timely and accurate work means continually changing, updating, and modifying your processes and procedures.

Are you still inputting data rather than having it done through technology? Are truly paperless? Are you delivering your product digitally? Are all of your admin team members highly skilled in using technology to streamline their work? The same applies to your staff. Are they continually finding ways to expend less effort and still end up with the most accurate final product?

Think about this comment from Seth Godin: “How do we do this work?” is a much better question than, “Who isn’t trying hard enough?”

  • Almost all quality improvement comes via simplification of design, manufacturing… layout, processes, and procedures.
  • Tom Peters

Thursday, October 28th, 2021

Frustration With Customer Service

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop

Have you had a frustration episode recently?

Our water softener failed last week. Of course, in our area, we can’t survive without soft water (that’s how we think these days). My husband called our soft water vendor and requested that someone come and repair our water softener. Things like that have been routine for many of us…. you call the service provider and they schedule a time to address your problem. It’s like getting your car serviced.

This time the lady who answered the phone simply replied, “We can’t get to you until January.” Wow, this is October! Needless to say, my husband went rather beserk and after much discussion, they said they would come on Monday. I reminded my husband that they probably didn’t have enough service technicians to meet the demand because of COVID. And, yes, that was the case.

We see the same thing in restaurants. Service has suffered because of the lack of employees. There are many empty tables and some restaurants aren’t even open seven days a week as they were in pre-COVID times.

A client shared with me recently that his Director of First Impressions says that clients seem to always be angry and rude since COVID has changed our lives. I know you struggle to meet your clients’ demands but it is not always possible. How far do you have to go to please them? Are you willing to go that far?

Just keep in mind that frustration is showing itself more and more. My only advice is, “Be Kind.”

  • For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.
  • Audrey Hepburn

Friday, October 15th, 2021

How To Talk To Clients – Flashback Friday

“Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.” – Margaret Wheatley

First of all, happy October 15th!

This Friday I hope you have time to read my blog post. It stresses the importance of helping beginners on how to talk to clients.

Have a great weekend!

  • Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
  • Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, September 29th, 2021

Engagement Letters for CARES Act Consulting

“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.” – Robert Frost

It is always good to be reminded about accurately covering services you provide in engagement letters, especially those advisory services relating to the CARES Act.

Here is a good reminder and a resource from my friend Stephen Vono of McGowanPRO professional liability insurance:

CPAs need to be vigilant in advising clients affected by the pandemic regarding all programs available through the federal, state, and local government agencies. Historical claims data shows that failure to advise clients is a common potential claim against accountants. This engagement letter will assist you in describing the scope of services when performing Cares Act-related consulting and advisory services.

For further eligibility requirements, please refer to the United States Government Health and Human Services website. www.hhs.gov 

Contact: John F. Raspante – Director of Risk Management | p: 732.216.7552  jraspante@mcgowanprofessional.com 
Stephen Vono – Senior VP |  p: 732.216.7552 svono@mcgowanprofessional.com
Download E/L here.

  • It is easy to make promises - it is hard to keep them.
  • Boris Johnson