When I ask people to tell me about their accountant, I love it when the feedback is positive.
Sadly this is not always the case.
What do your clients think?
It would seem that there are plenty of clients who are, at best, ambivalent about their accountant. And there are also many who aren’t happy but who cannot face the idea of finding a new accountant either.
Inevitably we assume that all is well if clients don’t let us know otherwise. And some clients only have themselves to blame when they miss opportunities to give you feedback. This would reduce their frustrations and give you the opportunity to improve your service.
Many accountants and bookkeepers tell me that they get most of their new clients through referrals. That’s great, although it rarely seems to be part of a deliberate strategy. It just happens ‘because I do a good job’.
The question though is how confident you can be that clients are satisfied that you have done a good job for them. If you don’t ask them, how do you know? Even dissatisfied clients pay their fees and may drag their feet before moving to someone new. Do you know for sure which of your clients are good advocates, who says nothing and who is bad-mouthing you behind your back?
The point is that, even if you think you do a good job you cannot afford to simply sit back and hope that apparently satisfied clients will refer you to the right sort of prospective new clients. I have said it before that ‘hope is not a strategy’.
When you meet with a prospective new client they need to feel that you are going to give them the right advice for their issues.
Clients need to feel that you care and that you are listening to them. They need to know the value of the advice you are providing, the consequences of ignoring your advice and the time, money and hassle that your advice will save them.
What do your clients want?
More than anything most clients want their tax sorted. And I’m sure that, like most accountants, you do a great job of this for their clients.
However, when I’m networking with entrepreneurs and small business people I regularly hear two related complaints when they realise my focus is on helping accountants to be more successful in business. They say:
“My accountant doesn’t save me any tax” or
“My accountant seems to be working for the taxman”
And when I ask if they have told their accountants what they think, they invariably answer ‘no’. This is one of the reasons I suspect there may be many accountants who mistakenly assume their clients are happy even though they are in reality telling their contacts that they are unimpressed.
The thing is that few clients will be aware of tax savings unless their accountant tells them about the savings that they have created.
I am convinced that the clients who tell people about how great their accountant is at saving them money only do so for one reason. And that reason is because their accountant has highlighted the tax savings when communicating with their client.
Think back and ask yourself whether you routinely tell clients how much tax you have saved them. Or do you just do the bookkeeping, accounting and completing of tax returns without referencing tax savings? Maybe you did it once in the first year you acted for the client. How about doing it more often? Most clients would love you for it.
You may be happy to wait for unhappy clients to tell you how they feel. To do so may be to risk them going elsewhere rather than complaining or giving you negative feedback.
Some accountants and bookkeepers routinely seek feedback as part of their client care commitment. At least once a year they ask clients to let them know what could be done for them to feel the service is all they would like. The focus is on the service, not on you as a person.
Even if you have an established solid client base you need your clients to be good advocates for you. You also want them to pay you willingly and promptly. They are far more likely to do these things if you give them good reason to do so.
Mark Lee is a professional speaker and mentor for accountants.