10 common mistakes accountants make that drive clients mad

Jul 2, 2024 | Client service

I once asked a group of entrepreneurs and business owners to talk to me about their accountants.
Most of my interviewees were not overly happy with their accountant.

I identified 10 common mistakes that seemed to explain the level of frustrations and disappointment my interviewees shared with me.

Over the years I have seen similar such lists produced by a range of commentators and publications. The issues rarely seem to change very much. And the solutions remain much the same as ever.

1. Working too close to deadlines – Clients feel stressed when accountants cut it too close, especially if the data was provided in good time.

2. Charging differing (time-based) fees each year – Clients are frustrated by fee fluctuations when, so far as they are aware, the work remains essentially the same.

3. Failing to offer business-focused advice to business clients – Clients typically like to receive informed and tailored advice that should help them grow their business.

4. Taking too long to respond – Taking what feels like an unreasonable amount of time to respond to client enquiries and to follow up after meetings with them leaves clients feeling undervalued and ignored.

5. Failing to provide regular advice – Business clients want ongoing support, not just reactive annual advice.

6. Omitting basic advice – Missing essential advice irritates clients, especially if it’s not part of the standard service.

7. Delegating to junior staff – Clients can accept junior staff doing some of the work but get frustrated when such staff are unable to properly address their queries or to communicate effectively with clients.

8. Failing to acknowledge client’s views – Clients need to feel heard and valued in the decision-making and advisory process.

9. Taking on work you do not have the experience to handle – Clients are frustrated when accountants lack sector-specific knowledge and seem unable to close this gap.

10. Absence of processes – Such that clients feel the accountant is disorganised and making it all up as they go along.

When, during mentoring conversations, accountants tell me about the fall-out from similar such issues, and they do, we look to work on how to improve client communications.

The skill comes in learning how to help clients to recognise that you are doing your best to help them, that you’re on their side, and that you understand and want to help them succeed in their business.

The language you use in conversations, emails and forms/checklists all contribute to your clients’ perceptions. How confident are you that your clients aren’t harbouring unspoken frustrations that could mean they are ready to move to a new adviser any day now?

What matters is the client’s perception; as their perception is their reality.

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