Comparing LinkedIn, facebook, twitter and ecademy

I’ve copied below a couple of slides I used in my recent presentations on Social Media for accountants. They reveal some of the differences between just 4 of the dozens of online networking sites. I would stress that all of my observations here are focused on the issues as they apply to accountants in practice. Different considerations will often be more relevant for other businesses, consultants, professionals and employees.

comparison chart 2

comparison chart 1

Edited 2013: Sadly Ecademy is no more and the other sites have been tweaked so the above comparisons are no longer wholly accurate. However the key point remains valid. Different sites offer different opportunities and are used in different ways by different communities of people.

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Are you relationship or transaction focused?

I liked this distinction that was shared with me recently by Jason Butler of Bloomsbury Financial Services. He noted that:

Lawyers have transactional relationships with clients but adopt a relationship focused mentality;

Accountants have a recurring relationship with clients but adopt a transactional relationship mentality.

This highlights one of the key differences as between lawyers and accountants.  Lawyers are generally engaged for one-off transactions and ad-hoc advice. Accountants however are typically engaged to complete annual recurring compliance tasks.

Lawyers have to constantly seek out new work – whether from previous clients or from new ones. Many accountants, on the other hand, once they have a full portfolio, often focus only on their existing clients. All too often they then get stuck in a rut that requires them to focus almost exclusively on the recurring compliance work.

Jason suggested that accountants should become more proactive – a request accountants often hear from dissatisfied clients too. He thinks they could perform the role of ‘gatekeeper’ as regards each clients’ links with other advisers – especially on the financial side.

What do you think?

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Protecting the title 'accountant' would be counter-productive

Although qualified accountants are aware that anyone can call themselves an ‘accountant’ I find that very few ‘real’ people appreciate this fact. They tend to assume accountants are like dentists, doctors and solicitors. If only that were the case!

It is precisely because of this confusion that various groups of accountants campaign to secure protection of the description ‘accountant’.  The arguments in favour of this are made strongly, vociferously and repeatedly.  And, I suggest, short-sightedly. The proponents seem unaware of the wider consequences that a successful campaign would bring.

My alternative view is borne of many discussions with members of the public in connection with the Tax Advice Network. I quickly realised that that most non-accountants assume that all accountants are tax advisers as the words are thought to be synonymous.

Leaving aside company directors, why does anyone typically appoint an accountant? Is their main concern to have a decent set of accounts? Or are most people more interested in obtaining help and advice as regards their tax returns and tax planning? Private investors, the retired and many other clients do not even have accounts in the conventional sense. Yet still the majority of such taxpayers turn to accountants for help. With apologies to the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT), the concept of a ‘Chartered Tax Adviser’(CTA) as distinct from an ‘Accountant’ has yet to enter the public consciousness.

I cannot imagine that members of the CIOT would want or ever agree to describe themselves as ‘accountants’.  Equally there would be an uproar if CTAs were precluded from completing tax returns and advising on tax matters.  There’s also the Association of Tax Technicians (ATT) which has just celebrated its 21st birthday. They would be equally disenfranchised. No one is arguing that they should call themselves accountants. But equally no one is arguing to restrict use of the term ‘tax adviser’.

So what would happen if only qualified members of approved accountancy bodies could call themselves ‘accountants’?

Quite simply, unqualified accountants would promote their services (more accurately) as ‘Tax Advisers’. The public would then quickly become much more familiar with the distinction between an Accountant and a Tax Adviser. And given the choice between going to a specialist in preparing accounts or one specialised in advising on tax, which will they choose to appoint?

I am convinced therefore that if the campaign to ‘protect’ use of the title ‘Accountant’ were ever to be successful, it would be largely counter-productive. Unless, at the same time, the term ‘Tax Adviser’ was restricted such that it could only be adopted by those who are members of an approved accountancy, tax or legal body. And that’s even less likely to happen than restricting who can claim to be an Accountant.

Simply stopping unqualified accountants preparing accounts etc would not prevent them working on tax returns and giving tax advice.  Limiting use of the term of ‘Accountant’ would lead to an inevitable increase in understanding as to the differences between accountants and tax advisers  And if that happens I fear that qualified accountants would lose more than they gain.

What do you think?

This is an updated version of a piece I posted on this blog in July 2008.

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Protecting the title ‘accountant’ would be counter-productive

Although qualified accountants are aware that anyone can call themselves an ‘accountant’ I find that very few ‘real’ people appreciate this fact. They tend to assume accountants are like dentists, doctors and solicitors. If only that were the case!

It is precisely because of this confusion that various groups of accountants campaign to secure protection of the description ‘accountant’.  The arguments in favour of this are made strongly, vociferously and repeatedly.  And, I suggest, short-sightedly. The proponents seem unaware of the wider consequences that a successful campaign would bring.

My alternative view is borne of many discussions with members of the public in connection with the Tax Advice Network. I quickly realised that that most non-accountants assume that all accountants are tax advisers as the words are thought to be synonymous.

Leaving aside company directors, why does anyone typically appoint an accountant? Is their main concern to have a decent set of accounts? Or are most people more interested in obtaining help and advice as regards their tax returns and tax planning? Private investors, the retired and many other clients do not even have accounts in the conventional sense. Yet still the majority of such taxpayers turn to accountants for help. With apologies to the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT), the concept of a ‘Chartered Tax Adviser’(CTA) as distinct from an ‘Accountant’ has yet to enter the public consciousness.

I cannot imagine that members of the CIOT would want or ever agree to describe themselves as ‘accountants’.  Equally there would be an uproar if CTAs were precluded from completing tax returns and advising on tax matters.  There’s also the Association of Tax Technicians (ATT) which has just celebrated its 21st birthday. They would be equally disenfranchised. No one is arguing that they should call themselves accountants. But equally no one is arguing to restrict use of the term ‘tax adviser’.

So what would happen if only qualified members of approved accountancy bodies could call themselves ‘accountants’?

Quite simply, unqualified accountants would promote their services (more accurately) as ‘Tax Advisers’. The public would then quickly become much more familiar with the distinction between an Accountant and a Tax Adviser. And given the choice between going to a specialist in preparing accounts or one specialised in advising on tax, which will they choose to appoint?

I am convinced therefore that if the campaign to ‘protect’ use of the title ‘Accountant’ were ever to be successful, it would be largely counter-productive. Unless, at the same time, the term ‘Tax Adviser’ was restricted such that it could only be adopted by those who are members of an approved accountancy, tax or legal body. And that’s even less likely to happen than restricting who can claim to be an Accountant.

Simply stopping unqualified accountants preparing accounts etc would not prevent them working on tax returns and giving tax advice.  Limiting use of the term of ‘Accountant’ would lead to an inevitable increase in understanding as to the differences between accountants and tax advisers  And if that happens I fear that qualified accountants would lose more than they gain.

What do you think?

This is an updated version of a piece I posted on this blog in July 2008.

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7 steps to resolving client complaints

Towards the end  of my talk last night on How to Handle Difficult Clients, I summarised a seven step process that I have not previously shared on this blog:

1 Listen to the client They won’t listen to you until you have listened to them.

When their mouths are open, their ears are closed.

2 Offer EMPATHY first.

Do not start with

“It wasn’t my fault”

Make clear that you appreciate their position.

Eg: “I can understand why you must be upset by that.”

Repeat if necessary.

[You are empathising, not sympathising and not agreeing that you, or anyone else, has done something wrong]

3 Ask questions

Upset people tend to start in the middle

Ask questions so that you can get the whole story and are able to understand their problem.
4 Pause Make clear that you’re not offering some ‘pat’ prepared response.  What follows needs to evidence that you have been listening to what they’ve said.
5 Explain what YOU can do for them Outline what YOU can do.

If it’s not what they want, explain your reasons without BLAMING them.

Take responsibility for the follow up action

6 Keep your promise Do whatever you said you would do and ensure that anyone else involves does so too  (as far as you can anyway).

Don’t simply delegate or dump it.

7 Go one step further This makes the difference between quite good service and excellent service.

Contact the client afterwards and ask if they are happy with the solution.

If they pause before saying ‘yes’ – they aren’t really happy. Go through the loop again.

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Dealing with difficult clients – anger issues

In my next talk on how to deal with difficult clients I’ll be addressing a number of issues that have yet to be mentioned on this blog. One of theses is what you can do and what you should avoid doing if a client gets angry with you. Here are a few tips:

Do

  • Stay calm.
  • Allow the client to ‘let off steam’; gently interrupt by reinstating what they have just said, then move the conversation on.
  • Listen well and let the client know that you have heard and understood.
  • Acknowledge their anger, empathise if appropriate.
  • Try to establish the cause of their anger; and do what you can to establish a solution/workable relationship/compromise/positive outcome.
  • Remember that you have the right to be treated with respect, and not to be threatened.
  • Help the client to communicate clearly without aggression.
  • Maintain a neutral posture, facial expression and tone of voice.  Keep steady eye contact.

Don’t

  • Show impatience or annoyance.
  • Let the client intimidate you.
  • Get side tracked.  If you’re a talkative person you may often also have a grasshopper mind, and before long you will be wandering away from the subject of the original conversation.
  • Cut off the client’s speech too abruptly though; treat the situation with care and sensitivity

Sadly though this is all easier said than done! On those odd occasions that a client loses it, you can hardly pull out a prompt sheet containing Dos and Don’ts. You have to go with your gut. Hopefully though having read through this list may help point your gut in the right direction.

What else can you do?

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