CPA CPA Customer Service Tips
CPA Customer Service Tips:Client service and client communication are inextricably linked and are each components of the same mission to continually enhance the level at which you and your firm understand, serve and satisfy your clients.
When you communicate with your clients effectively, you are better able to meet or exceed their expectations because you have a clear understanding of their needs. Effective communication specifically asking the right questions and really listening to your clients also helps you to discover and take advantage of opportunities to serve your clients in new ways.
Just as quality communication enhances a CPAs ability to provide outstanding service, providing excellent client service brings opportunities for more effective communication. The more actively you service your clients, the more opportunities you will have to communicate with them. If you rarely visit your clients and only speak when they call you with an occasional question, there will be few opportunities for real communication. Frequent communications, on the other hand, create an ongoing dialogue with your clients, providing you with the opportunity to become more of a partner to them rather than just a service provider.
Listen closely for the subtle and not-so-subtle clues your client may be providing about his or her level of satisfaction with your firm or with other service providers. Picking up on these hints may enable you to revive a relationship that is going sour or generate additional business by addressing the client’s needs that are not currently being met to his or her satisfaction.
CPA Customer Service Tips – Delivering Outstanding Client Service
Businesses in a wide range of industries, including professional service firms, have succeeded in making the delivery of outstanding service a competitive advantage.
Think of Nordstrom, L.L. Bean, Ritz-Carlton or any smaller, local company that goes out of its way to delight its customers and make their lives easier and more pleasant. Customers, in turn, go out of their way to recommend these businesses to friends and family. A CPA firm can do the same, by finding creative, unexpected ways to anticipate, meet and exceed its client’s expectations, surpassing the level of service provided by competing firms. Firms, which deliver superior client service, generate significant business through referrals.
Another benefit is enhanced client retention. By exceeding client’s expectations as a matter of course, you can create a loyal following based on client’s appreciation of your efforts. Your clients will come to expect the level of service you provide and to rely on it. They will have little reason to even consider taking their business elsewhere.
CPA Customer Service Tips – Principles of Outstanding Client Service
Building a reputation for outstanding service requires following several basic principles.
Forthrightness helps to build strong client relationships. It tells clients something important about you and your firm and helps to build their level of comfort with and trust in you. A record of honesty also helps clients to see past any problems that may arise to the trustworthy person with whom they are dealing. Alternately, if a client feels the CPA relationship is more adversarial, he or she will be less eager to forgive any missteps.
Be careful to only make promises you know you can keep. Also, try always to under-promise and over-deliver. Imagine yourself waiting for a table in a restaurant. If the host tells you it will be a 10-minute wait, at 15 minutes you start to become agitated. But if he or she tells you it will be 15 minutes and seats you in 10, you are pleasantly surprised.
Availability is another crucial component of any service business. There is nothing more important than serving a client’s needs. While there may be more urgent concerns at a particular moment, clients are the key driver of any professional service business. Without them, a CPA firm can have the most talented, experienced people, the most efficient systems and the nicest office and it will not matter a bit.
When a client requests your attention, provide it. When a client opens the door to a conversation, walk through it. When a client has a question or concern, address it. If a client calls, call back the same day. If a client requests a visit or meeting, don’t put it off. Find the time and arrange it.
There is no more frustrating experience for a client than to be passed from person to person when they have an issue or problem they want resolved. Think of your own experiences of being transferred from one voicemail option to another, to a customer service rep, to a supervisor and back to another voicemail message when trying to resolve an issue with your health insurance, for example.
Never let a client stew – resolve problems as quickly as possible. In truth, every client problem is an opportunity to provide outstanding service. Deliver a solution that meets or even exceeds the client’s expectations and you’ll strengthen your relationship with that client.
CPA Customer Service Tips – Cultivating a Service Orientation
Regardless of whether your firm is large, small or somewhere in between, your job and that of every other employee of your firm is to serve, satisfy and delight your clients. Think more broadly about the definition of your own role at your firm and encourage everyone else to do the same. Do this and you will likely come to view your job as solving problems and delighting clients. Providing accounting services is merely how you pursue fulfillment of your purpose.
Remember the example of the railroad barons, they thought of themselves as being in the railroad business, rather than the transportation business, and as a result were blindsided by the rise of trucking. Focus on the results of your work, not the functional tasks.
All employees should understand that serving client’s needs and surpassing their expectations is the top priority. An upbeat, friendly and helpful receptionist can do wonders for a client’s mood and perception of your firm; one who is the opposite can create problems where none previously existed. To make employees understand the importance your firm places on satisfying clients, consider the following:
- Push authority down to all levels of the firm, to everyone who has contact with a client.
- Empower employees to do what it takes to solve a client’s problem or meet a clients need.
To cultivate a service orientation, you and your staff should empathize with clients. Understanding what clients need and want is the first step to being able to provide it. To do this:
- Put yourself in your clients’ shoes.
- Think about what you expect from service providers.
- Ask your clients’ what they expect.
- Become intimately familiar with their business and personal situation.
- Be creative in developing ways to meet and exceed your clients’ expectations.
CPA Customer Service Tips – Practical Tips for Achieving Outstanding Client Service
Teach Client Service
Firms can do a great deal to enhance the level of client service provided by their professionals and support staff. Some firms avail themselves of the wide variety of speakers, trainers and seminar leaders who can be engaged to enhance employees’ competency in this critical area. It also can be beneficial for CPA’s and support staff to attend client-service seminars on an individual basis. In such cases, a firm might underwrite the cost of attendance with the understanding that the employee will assemble a presentation to share what he or she learned with the rest of the firm. Other firms take a different approach and develop their own client-service training program. At the most basic level, firms can provide books, videos and other training materials to help support their employees interest in enhancing their skills in this area.
Recognise and Reward Outstanding Client Service
Firms that wish to provide outstanding client service find success by reinforcing positive behavior in that area. For example, your firm could set up a system for acknowledging actions that demonstrate a commitment to outstanding service. This could be as simple as a form to be filled out by an employee of the firm, detailing the actions of another employee and the results, in terms of client satisfaction. The forms could be read at regular firm meetings or their contents could be distributed internally by memo or email.
To further reinforce positive behavior, firms should reward employees who are recognized through the firm’s program. The rewards need not have a high monetary value, but should have strong appeal, such as gift certificates, cash or event tickets. Attaching a reward to the recognition demonstrates the firm’s principals are willing to share the benefits of providing outstanding client service with their employees.
Measure Client Satisfaction
One sure way to understand just how your clients feel about your firm is to ask them! Simple surveys offer clients an easy way to provide you with honest feedback in a thoughtful, non-confrontational manner. Such surveys can be distributed via mail or email, depending on the client’s preferences.
Typically, firms use two different types of surveys with each client, annual and project surveys. Annual surveys gauge clients overall satisfaction with the firm’s service. Project surveys allow a firm to assess its performance on a particular project with a client, without having to wait until the years end to be made aware of and address any issues.
CPA Customer Service Tips – Principles of Effective Client Communication
To build and maintain long-term relationships with clients, be sure to completely understand their views, concerns and expectations. Reassure clients that you understand what they are saying by paraphrasing their concerns back to them. Only after you are certain you have a complete grasp of what the client wants, should you attempt to explain how you might help the client achieve his or her goals.
Establishing Clear Expectations
Make certain that everyone walks away from a meeting or phone call with the same expectations of what will follow. Be sure to provide a verbal recap at the end of a call or conversation, confirming who will do what and when. For more lengthy or important discussions, provide the client with a brief conference report, highlighting key points and the agreed upon follow-up steps. Also request that the client review the report and bring any perceived discrepancies to your attention.
Keep It Simple
Wherever possible, refrain from using financial jargon, unless you are certain your client understands it. Your clients will thank you for speaking in plain English. By doing so, you also will exponentially increase the chance that everyone who may be in the room will comprehend your meaning.
Lead by Example/Be Consistent
Impress your clients and set an example for your partners and employees by aligning what you say with what you do. When your actions reinforce your words, it sends a powerful message that you respect others and take your business seriously.
CPA Customer Service Tips – Practical Tips for Achieving Effective Client Communication
Maintain clear and reasonable expectations:
- When the situation warrants, adjust your clients expectations promptly.
- Report project status regularly.
- Avoid surprises.
Avoid fee-related misunderstandings:
- Discuss fees during the first meeting.
- Furnish a written fee agreement.
- Bill periodically and promptly.
Make time to educate your client:
- Share your work with the client.
- Involve them in the process.
- Add value beyond the services being provided.
- Create a positive experience for the client.
Show that you care about your client as a person:
- Highlight potential personal implications of accounting and financial issues and situations.
- Remember personal details such as names of family members, key milestones, birthdays, etc.
- Write them down.
- Calendar them so you remember to mention them.
- Send cards and personal notes.
- Be focused and actively engaged in serving your client.
CPA Customer Service Tips – 10 Phrases for Positive Client Communication
Words can be very powerful. The right words can immediately put a client at ease. The wrong ones can raise their defenses and their stress level just as quickly. The following 10 phrases will help you lead the way to effective communication with your clients.
- How may I help?
- I can solve that problem.
- I will take responsibility.
- I don’t know the answer, but I’ll find out.
- There will be no unpleasant surprises.
- I will keep you updated.
- I will deliver it on time.
- It will be just what you requested.
- The job will be complete.
- I appreciate your business.
CPA Customer Service Tips
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