The following list is a salutary lesson in what not to do if you want to keep your clients.
I have collated these points from various ideas found around the web. Such lists are normally aimed at encouraging clients of one accountant to move to another one. I thought it would be instructive to consider the same points from the perspective of an accountant.
Some of what follows will be facts. Some will be feelings and some will be false. But, even in the latter case, as I have often said: Perception is Reality. If any of your clients think of you as boring or uninterested you may well be at risk of them being poached by a more stand out and successful accountant.
You are at risk of clients being tempted away if:
- Their phone calls are not returned promptly
- Promises, expectations and agreed deadlines not met.
- Their work is not completed on a timely basis affording clients practically no time to make changes or ask questions.
- You are providing poor value for money.
- You are not evidently trying to help them to pay less tax.
- You are not providing what they perceive to be a proactive service.
- You make mistakes or have to accept there is a better solution when clients question your advice.
- They have unexpected tax liabilities
- They get charged penalties and interest charges about which you had not forewarned them
- You charge unexpected or additional fees without warning clients of these in advance.
- You seem to lack sufficient relevant technical knowledge.
- Your resources are limited such that clients don’t feel they are getting prompt attention.
- You are only really in contact with them once a year.
- Their business has out-grown you and the resources you are able to muster.
- They perceive that you are more interested in last year’s accounts than planning for the future.
- You rarely talk about ways to help them increase their profits.
- You have not discussed (in recent years) their exit plans – for selling the business or retirement.
- You never call them to enquire “How’s business?”
- You never ask them tough business questions.
- They perceive that you use too much jargon such they they find it difficult to understand you.
- They feel that they never know what you will charge them
- You don’t explain your ideas, preferring instead to act “the expert”, and expecting them to find enjoyment and value in listening to you pontificate.
- They perceive you to routinely say “no” rather than listening to what they want to do.
- They perceive that you don’t attempt to formulate ideas to help them reach their true goals.
- They perceive that you only talk numbers and taxes, nothing else. Clients feel absolutely no chemistry or rapport with you.
I doubt that all clients would have the same perceptions. But if you think about that subset of your client base who may be unhappy you can at least start to turn things around with them. The actions to take are implicit in the above list.
The bottom line is to help ensure that clients recognise that you are interested in them, that you care about them and that you are helping them. Any client that perceives you to do be doing those 3 things will see you as a standout accountant. And that will help you to become more successful too.