Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category

Monday, January 27th, 2020

Fight it! – Procrastination

“You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again.” – Benjamin Franklin

I have observed that accountants are masters at procrastination.

Definition: Procrastinate: delay or postpone action, put off doing something.

You would think that people who are deadline driven would avoid procrastination. That doesn’t seem to be the case. Here’s what I have seen over and over again during my several decades working in public accounting.

Procrastination is practiced throughout tax season and as due dates near, fire drills begin. Thus, hectic and stressful times reign for ten days before the due date.

Procrastination runs rampant after a partner or management retreat. The common excuses are:

  • We are too busy.
  • We can’t work on it now (the firm initiative), we are too busy with performance reviews.
  • The fall due dates are approaching.
  • We have to do so much tax planning in December.
  • We will have to wait until after April 15.
  • After April 15, too many people are taking time off.

Experts tell us that most people procrastinate because they don’t like what they do. If you love what you do, you procrastinate less.

According to Jeffrey Gitomer, there are two things you can do to fight procrastination – 1) Set a false (earlier) deadline, and 2) Enjoy the deadline, instead of lamenting it.

I usually approach completing tasks this way. I do what I dread first and then can enjoy the projects I am passionate about.

If you are not passionate about what you mostly do, you better find another job.

  • In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.
  • Theodore Roosevelt

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020

Reading For Tax Professionals

“Am I unhappy at my job?” – Tony Nitti

Whether you are a tax professional, another accountant or an admin professional working inside a public accounting firm I hope you will take the time to read this Forbes article written by Tony Nitti.

It is titled, The Five New Year’s Resolutions Every Tax Pro Should Make.

I know! You are busy. You are always busy. Find the time to read.

  • You don't have to love your career every day.
  • Tony Nitti

Thursday, January 16th, 2020

Rainmakers Retiring

“What differentiates sellers today is their ability to bring fresh ideas.” – Jill Konrath

In many CPA firms, the most successful rainmakers are still in the baby boomer category. Yet, as we all know, baby boomers are retiring at the rate of 10,000 per day.

Who will replace your top rainmaker(s)? This is a valid concern in many accounting firms. But, times are changing and so is the role of the CPA firm rainmaker.

In an informative article via Accounting Today, written by Lee Frederiksen, he notes that the rainmaker model is beginning to dry up!

Attracting new clients used to be based on the personalities of certain partners. These partners were out and about in the business community and made contacts that led to new business.

Now, a prospective client has checked out the firm, it’s leaders and the services they provide before anyone at the firm has actually met them. Future clients are searching for the firm with the right expertise to solve their specific business challenges. Hopefully, your firm possesses the services and expertise they are looking for and they can find it on your website.

Be sure to read the entire article.

  • The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.
  • Walt Disney

Monday, January 13th, 2020

Keeping Your Clients Informed

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” – Carl Sagan

Recently, I wrote about doing unexpected and helpful things for your clients. I am always surprised by the number of CPAs I talk to who do not send a newsletter to their clients. I always think of that old saying, “out of sight, out of mind.” It applies to CPAs.

Use your newsletter software to also send important reminders to your clients. These reminders are certainly unexpected and helpful.

Here’s a great example from Snyder & Company in Lancaster, Ohio that I received last week:

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  • Friendship, like love, is destroyed by long absence, though it may be increased by short intermissions.
  • Samuel Johnson

Wednesday, January 8th, 2020

Punctuality

“Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.” – William Shakespeare

I admire punctuality. To me, it shows character and caring.

Here’s a true story. A CPA merged her practice up into a larger firm. She always practiced punctuality when dealing with clients and employees. She was looking forward to a scheduled meeting with her new partners. They realized she had some serious topics to discuss. She arrived at the conference room five minutes before the meeting time. She sat for 20 minutes before the two partners showed up. She felt it was a sign of disrespect. Thus, it set a tone for the meeting.

How do you feel when you have to wait for an appointment? I know it should be expected at a doctor’s office but it is still irritating.

Do you ever make your clients wait on you? Do you schedule a phone session with a client and call them 10 minutes late?

I hope you are never late for an individual employee performance feedback meeting. It tells them they are not important.

Being on time can be accomplished – make it a resolution for 2020 and stick to it.

  • I'm late, I'm late! For a very important date! No time to say 'hello, goodbye,' I'm late, I'm late, I'm late!
  • The White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland

Tuesday, January 7th, 2020

Unexpected and Helpful Ways

“The key is to set realistic customer expectations, and then not to just meet them, but to exceed them — preferably in unexpected and helpful ways.” – Richard Branson

How are you serving your clients in helpful and unexpected ways?

Have you ever thought about it? I bet you give a brand new client significantly more attention than you do a long-time, loyal client.

Clients really don’t expect anything unexpected from their CPA. If you do something helpful and unexpected they might just recommend you to some of their friends.

Just a few ideas:

  • Send a greeting card on their birthday. Even an email will do.
  • Send a congratulations card when a child graduates from high school or college.
  • Send a thank-you for “allowing us to serve you” card at the end of an engagement.
  • Drop off a pumpkin pie a few days before Thanksgiving.
  • Keep them updated on significant changes such as the minimum wage increase.

…. and I know you can add a lot more items to the list.

 

 

  • Just having satisfied customers isn't good enough anymore. If you really want a booming business, you have to create raving fans.
  • Ken Blanchard

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

Listen to Learn What Clients Need

“If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” – Howard Schultz

We have heard it over and over again from speakers at conferences and read it over and over again in CPA marketing publications. It is seven times easier to sell services to current clients than it is to obtain a brand new client. Client loyalty is priceless.

As with many activities inside a firm, you need a system, a process, a questionnaire or a checklist. You need some type of tool to help your accountants actually explore the future needs of current clients.

Some firms call it the Additional Services Checklist.  Others may call it The Expanded Services Questionnaire or The Enhanced Opportunity Checklist.  No matter what you name it, it is a sales tool that your team can use to find out how the firm can truly better and fully serve your clients. Once they have the checklist/questionnaire, they can simply listen more intently when they are talking with a client or working in the client’s office.

The goal is to bring extra value to your clients.  CPAs call it value-added as if their normal services don’t have much value. In these changing times, compliance services are looked upon as only a way to discover advisory services that the client needs.

Do all of your team members, even the most recent college recruits:

  • Know what to look and listen for while they are at the client’s location?
  • Been educated/informed about all of the firm’s service offerings?
  • Know what to do if they recognize an opportunity and who to refer it to inside your firm?

If you answered “no” to any of these, take action.  Host a lunch & learn in early January and talk about all the value-added services your firm offers. Provide the entire team, including the admin team, with a listing of questions/items to apply to the clients and give them the name of the partner to seek out for guidance if they identify an area where your firm can bring more value to the client.  Just having this simple questionnaire or checklist seems to give everyone more confidence.

During the lunch and learn, experienced partners and managers can speak-up and give practical advice to the less-experienced team members.

  • Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.
  • Steve Jobs

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019

Field Trips

“Research in education has shown that we remember field trips long into adulthood. I remember visiting the post office in second grade and looking at the sorting machine. I have vivid memories of that when I don’t even remember the name of the teacher who took me.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

Many people working in an accounting firm never have an opportunity to visit a client site. With technology playing a much larger role in compliance work, team members who used to do what we call fieldwork don’t even do that as much as in the past.

Why not choose one of your best clients, a small manufacturer, a candy maker, even a winery and ask if you can bring your entire team for a tour of their business. Of course, if you are a large firm you will have to work out taking smaller groups to different client sites.

One of the basics of business networking I learned many years ago was to begin a conversation with a business owner, simply ask them, “Tell me about your business.” They love their business. It’s their baby and they enjoy talking about it.

You know your clients well and can easily identify the ones who would love to show visitors around and talk about their business.

I have talked to several firm leaders who have already tried this and it is appreciated by the client and the team.

amazonI recently toured an Amazon Fulfillment Center near Louisville, KY. What an eye-opening and interesting experience. It had four floors and the square footage was the size of 28 football fields!

  • Only now have I finally realized that my life has been an unending field trip. And I have tried hard not to be a tourist. But to be an adventurer, a traveler, an explorer, a learner, and a pilgrim.
  • Robert Fulghum

Monday, December 2nd, 2019

They Are So Much More Than A Receptionist

“I’m just a friendly person; that runs in my family.” -Dolly Parton

The person who greets your client and other visitors is so much more than a receptionist. It is such an important role, especially if you, like many firms, have an office where people feel comfortable just stopping by.

Many firms are now titling their receptionist the Director of First Impressions and that is exactly what they are. Visitors to your office, whether they are a client, a prospective client, a delivery person, an interviewee or a person making a sales call, will talk about your firm. Make sure they are saying, “Wow, what a friendly place!”

Little things make the biggest difference in this area. Does your DOFI offer refreshments? Do they hang up the client’s jacket/coat in a cedar-lined closet? Do they have a menu prepared that lists the types of beverages you have available? Do they engage in small talk in an informative, entertaining and helpful manner?

They are truly an ambassador for your firm. It is not a job that should be looked down upon by other people on the admin team.

If you have an all-star in this role, I hope you are paying them a premium. I know a firm that once won a huge client partly because they liked the way they were treated when their executive team visited the firm’s office.

Read this interesting and helpful article by Jeffrey Gitomer called Receptionist Selling.

  • We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It's our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.
  • Jeff Bezos

Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

A Job Description Is Important – But, There Is More

“Friends and good manners will carry you where money won’t go.” – Margaret Walker

Offering individualized job descriptions to your staff is definitely something you should be doing. I find that in smaller firms, job descriptions are something that is not always offered. Employees just learn what they should do and they do it.

The next-gen workforce (Gen Z) wants to know exactly what will be expected of them. Career development is a must. They are ambitious and desire opportunities for advancing in their careers. Set clear, concise expectations for them.

There are probably several people on your team who might bristle when asked to do a certain task. They are thinking, and probably don’t say it out loud, “that’s not in my job description!”

The truth is, there are many things that you must do in an office environment that are not spelled out on your job description.

Seth Godin, in one of his blog posts, listed things that are missing from your job description if you work in an office. Below, are a few (read the entire list here.)

  • Ask why
  • Treat customers better than they expect
  • Feed the plants
  • Highlight good work from your peers
  • Cut costs
  • Organize a bookshelf
  • Smile a lot
  • Leave things more organized than you found them
  • and many more

Here are some that apply to an accounting office. I bet you can add more!

  • Never leave a mess at the coffee station
  • Don’t mess with the thermostat
  • Don’t eat someone else’s lunch that is in the frig
  • Greet every client who might be sitting in the lobby
  • Always offer a visitor a coffee or soft drink
  • If you have an issue with a peer, talk to them about it and no one else
  • and many more!

Read about my CPA Firm Courtesy Policy here.

  • Good manners and graciousness pave the way for future favors. Bad manners crumble the road.
  • Terri Guillemets