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CPA Principles of Effective Client Communication

CPA Principles of Effective Client Communication

CPA Principles of Effective Client Communication: Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is the title of qualified accountants in numerous countries in the English-speaking world. In the United States, the CPA is a license to provide accounting services directly to the public. It is awarded by each of the 50 states for practice in that state. Additionally, almost every state (49 out of 50) has passed mobility laws in order to allow practice in their state by CPAs from other states. Although state licensing requirements vary, the minimum standard requirements include the passing of the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination, 150 semester units of college education, and one year of accounting related experience.

Continuing professional education (CPE) is also required to maintain licensure. Individuals who have been awarded the CPA but have lapsed in the fulfillment of the required CPE or have requested to be converted to inactive status are in many states permitted to use the designation “CPA Inactive” or an equivalent phrase. In most U.S. states, only CPAs are legally able to provide to the public attestation (including auditing) opinions on financial statements. Many CPAs are members of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and their state CPA society.

State laws vary widely regarding whether a non-CPA is even allowed to use the title accountant. To illustrate, Texas prohibits the use of the designations “accountant” and “auditor” by a person not certified as a Texas CPA, unless that person is a CPA in another state, is a non-resident of Texas, and otherwise meets the requirements for practice in Texas by out-of-state CPA firms and practitioners.

CPA Principles of Effective Client Communication – Principles of Effective Client Communication

Communicating effectively with clients provides a CPA firm with a host of invaluable benefits. First, it reduces misunderstandings, which are often the result of unclear communication, either written or verbal. Effective communication also helps to keep problems that may occur from spinning out of control. And effective communication creates opportunities for firm improvement and growth by providing an opportunity to see the firm and oneself through the eyes of clients. This client’s eye view allows the firm to identify its own strengths and weaknesses more clearly and to understand the ways in which the firm could better serve its clients.

Active Listening

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 Principles of Effective Client Communication – 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 Principles of Effective Client Communication – 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.

  1. How may I help?
  2. I can solve that problem.
  3. I will take responsibility.
  4. I don’t know the answer, but I’ll find out.
  5. There will be no unpleasant surprises.
  6. I will keep you updated.
  7. I will deliver it on time.
  8. It will be just what you requested.
  9. The job will be complete.
  10. I appreciate your business.

CPA Principles of Effective Client Communication

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