Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category

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

Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

Offering Client Accounting Services

“Technology is, of course, a double-edged sword. Fire can cook our food but also burn us.” – Jason Silva

It has been a really hot service offering for many firms over the last couple of years. I am talking about CAS (or whatever name your firm calls it).

You can’t provide CAS without the technology to support it. Make sure you are budgeting properly for technology in 2020.

I was reading over my list of current trends in the accounting profession for 2019 and this one caught my attention. I hope it captures yours, too.

Developing Client Accounting Services – The firm that assembles the numbers will see the advisory opportunities first, and that firm will likely be the most trusted business advisor in the long term.

  • Every once in a while, a new technology, an old problem, and a big idea turn into an innovation.
  • Dean Kamen

Monday, November 18th, 2019

If Mom Says No – Ask Dad

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford

Beware of the age-old behavior that kids use – They want something and they ask their mother. Then, if Mom vetoes the activity, they go behind her back and ask their father (without telling him they already asked Mom). Maybe, just maybe, Dad will say yes and they are very happy and proceed to move ahead.

This occurs in accounting firms. An employee wants to do something a certain way. The partner on the project says, “No, do it according to the firm procedures.” The employee seeks out a different partner, perhaps one they work for more often, and whines about having to do the client project a certain way when they can do it faster “the old way.” The second partner, not wanting to get into a big discussion, just says “Do it however you think is best.”

Owners should be united in many ways even in how work is processed. Of course, they should discuss the processes, modify if necessary but then commit to the processes they helped establish.

Partner unity (in all things) is important in becoming a one-firm firm rather than a group sole-practitioners under one roof. I call those firms silo firms. You can be a silo firm and make decent money but don’t call yourself a one-firm firm if you really aren’t one.

 

 

  • Individual commitment to a group effort--that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.
  • Vince Lombardi

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019

I Can’t. I Am Too Busy.

“If ants are such busy workers, how come they find time to go to all the picnics?” – Marie Dressler 

Oh, my. That busy word again.

Look at the quote, above, and think of the partners and staff working at your accounting firm. Everyone thinks they are too busy. Even your clients think you are too busy. What does that tell them?  Do they shy away from asking questions or asking you to work on a new project because you are just too busy?

How much time do you waste? How much time does your team waste?

I changed the quote: “If staff are so busy, how come they find time to take an extra-long lunch, chat with each other about last night’s football game or spend 30 minutes eating breakfast in the lunchroom when they arrive in the morning?”

  • I wanted to figure out why I was so busy, but I couldn't find the time to do it.
  • Todd Stucker

Friday, October 25th, 2019

How Proactive Is Your Audit Team?

“If it moves, tick it.” – Audit Senior, Audit Day 1

Things are rapidly changing in the CPA profession and the one area that seems to be changing most rapidly is the audit. Many firms are continuing to perform an audit the way they have always performed audits and that is why you need to make sure that your audit leaders are keeping pace with the current trends.

Be sure to read an article by Bill Curtis via Accounting Today: Why you and your audit team should consider a remote audit next year. Curtis is the partner-in-charge of the Birmingham office of Mauldin & Jenkins.

  • Audits cause a certain amount of disruption and inconvenience for the client.
  • Modern technology allow audit teams to share and receive data with clients from any location.
  • Remote audits save time and money.
  • The audit team will also be more efficient working in their home office environment with all its tools and comforts — multiple monitors, high-speed internet, familiar scanners and copiers and all the rest. The result is fewer hours needed to complete the work, and probably faster turnaround times for the financial statements company leaders are anxious to see.
  • Some audits can take place entirely in the digital realm, but most will still require some on-site time and in-person consultation.

There are a lot more positives about performing a remote audit, for the firm and for the client. Share this article with your audit leaders. Hopefully, your audit leaders are already sharing information like this with everyone in the firm and taking steps to utilize the amazing technology available today.

 

  • Remote audits are a trend that’s gaining traction rapidly, and it’s easy to see why their popularity is growing.
  • Bill Curtis

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019

More Advice on Handling Email

“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.” – Harvey Mackay

I blog about it often, but I want to keep offering you solutions to your email misery. Don’t brag (or moan) about how many emails you get each day. Take positive steps to decrease the time you spend reading emails.

Matt Plummer gives us some good advice on how to spend less time on email every day in his article via HBR. A simple solution is to simply check email less often. His research says most professionals check their email 15 times per day. I believe that CPAs and their employees check email more often than that!

Keep in mind that most emails DO NOT need your immediate response. Set the expectations with your clients and let them know that you check email at 9:00, 11:00, 2:00 and 4:00. When you don’t respond right away, they will soon learn to expect your answer in a few hours.

I believe that your staff deserves a slightly higher priority. If you are a partner or a manager and you don’t reply to a staff question within a reasonable length of time, you may be damaging their productivity and halting workflow. I still hear stories of partners who may take days to answer an inquiry from staff!

Read the article and learn about the five ways we unnecessarily lose time dealing with emails.

  • I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.
  • William Shakespeare

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

How To Say It

“Bad news isn’t wine. It doesn’t improve with age.” – Colin Powell

In accounting firms, you spend lots of time and money teaching and training younger, less experienced accountants the technical aspects of their job.

You give them extensive training on how to prepare tax returns, how to perform the various steps in an audit and how to make QBO hum.

How much time and money do you spend on helping them learn how to talk to a client? How do they learn to inform a client that they still owe $65,000 in tax and it is due next week? How do they learn how to convince a client that a new software package would make them more profitable when they love their old, often outdated software?

One of the most important steps in growing your team’s success skills is to give them first-hand experience. It is simple but something that is often forgotten by partners and managers. Partners rush off to lunch with a client and they go alone. Partners and managers speak to the board of directors of a non-profit client and they go alone.

Less experienced people learn from listening and observing. Involve them, include them and take them along.

Here’s a good article via the Journal of Accountancy on how to deliver bad news to a client.

  • More information is always better than less. When people know the reason things are happening, even if it's bad news, they can adjust their expectations and react accordingly. Keeping people in the dark only serves to stir negative emotions.
  • Simon Sinek

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

Commitments Rather Than Mission Statements

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

I enjoy reading Jeffrey Gitomer’s thoughts, rants, and raves: books, articles and information on his website. If you are not familiar with him, he is a sales guy who has a whole lot to say about business and much of it strongly applies to CPAs. 

Here’s some information, from Gitomer, about client service.

Are you having a fall retreat? Are you going to talk about client retention? It’s a big management concern for CPA firms. It is much more difficult to bring in a new client than it is to retain old ones.

Don’t use your valuable time at a retreat to talk about things you will never do (or live-up to). Focus on the absolute truths you are willing to commit to in relation to serving your clients. I agree with Gitomer in that most mission statements are B.S. Define your future actions on what you REALLY intend to do, not what you wish you could do. 

As Gitomer states, “You might want to compare this list of commitments to what you are doing in your company with and to your customers. And you may want to TRASH your self-serving mission statement that NO ONE could recite even if someone was pointing a gun at them.”

Here are a few items from his customer promise and commitment list. 

We will be friendly.
We will be professional.
We will have what clients want when they want it.
We will answer the phone on the second ring with a live person.
We will be easy to do business with.
We will keep you informed as we progress.
We will recover memorably when an error occurs.
We will kiss ass and we will do it with a smile.
We will lead by example – always walking our talk.
and on and on….. 

Organize a lunch and learn session with your team and add to this list. What are you willing to do? Determine it and then DO THINGS!

  • 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