Below you will find a ten point list of what matters to an accountant’s client who has just posted a glowing and comprehensive testimonial for them. The client shared the list on Linkedin and I have copied it here and added my related observations.
I know the individual concerned . For many years he was an outspoken critic of poor service and of the slow rate at which accountants were embracing technology. His observations may therefore come as a surprise and there is much to learn from here.
He starts by noting that his accountants didn’t ask for a testimonial “but they’ve done such a good job for me that I offered”. How many of your clients would do this? By the way, there’s no shame in asking for testimonials either!
“They’re not cheap but the service they provide is a great example of what professionals should be offering in 2022”.
“What mattered to me?”
1. Crisp communication in my language. [He’s a sophisticated and technically savvy person. So this may be less of a compliment than it seems. Do they also adapt the language they use when communicating with their other, less sophisticated, clients?]
2. Calls/emails returned within 24 hours, often sooner.
3. Challenging me in an appropriate manner on business matters where there might be a significant tax consequence. [This is not someone who many people would feel comfortable ‘challenging’ as he can be gruff and can appear ‘all-knowing’. Do you have the confidence to challenge such clients when appropriate? Or are you scared to do so?]
4. Anticipating needs in a way that allows me to work with them for best outcomes.
5. Recognising that some suggestions don’t work for me and without pushing exotic/aggressive ‘schemes.’ [I was never a fan of such schemes and disagreed with those commentators who advocated them directly or indirectly. Some misleadingly suggested you were at risk of negligence claims if you failed to notify clients of such schemes. That was always bad advice and now no-one with any sense promotes such schemes anyway.]
6. Ensuring that I feel in control. [This could mean a number of things. Does he like, for example, being confident that his affairs are in order and that everything is done well ahead of deadlines?]
7. Fixed fees, clearly outlined. [And, by implication, no surprise extra fees. This can also mean having the confidence to clarify what is and isn’t covered by the fixed fee and, when the client requests additional work, agreeing an additional fixed fee for this too.]
8. Always pleasant, never confrontational at all service levels. [Surprisingly it can be the more junior staff who need training to ensure they are always presenting the best possible impression. Some, not all, do this naturally. Some need training. You cannot afford to assume they will do it right or that all clients will excuse the inexperience of your team members!]
9. Never leaving me in doubt that the advice given was anything other than solid. [This requires a balance of confidence, experience and knowledge. He knows when someone is pretending to know more than they do or is confident despite lacking relevant experience. NEVER take that risk. No one should think any less of you if you explain, with suitable confidence, why you are seeking a second opinion or are involving a specialist colleague or an external consultant.]
10. Sensible use of modern technology that’s (relatively) easy to understand and which supports the way I want to work with professionals.
As he points out in his Linkedin post, “professional competence is a given that’s supported by the above”. And that “tech is last on my list of things that matter”.
Both of these echo points I have long made to my accountant clients:
A – Most clients take your professional competence as read. It’s obvious – unless you undermine this by what you say and how you act.
B – Even if you prefer all your clients to use the same accounting software, this is an incidental point so far as most clients are concerned. What they care about is the care, service and attention they will receive.
One final point noted in the post is that the director/partner who manages this client relationship told him that, when it comes to recruitment, a person’s fit to the way the firm wants to deliver its services is their prime concern. Is this something you address when recruiting new members for your team?
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