In the fast-paced business world, the connection between a business owner and their accounting firm is vital, and that bond hinges on proactive communication.
- It builds trust.
- It ensures compliance.
- It helps clients understand each service's value.
However, this extends beyond being a dedicated accounting professional who always "stays in touch." Firm owners need a plan to make sure effective communication is happening throughout the company.
This article lays out precise and practical strategies you can apply now to make that happen.
Start with Understanding Client Expectations
Excellent communication starts with deeply understanding each client's needs—their goals, challenges, resources, and opportunities. Identify any possible misconceptions they may have about the services you offer (or that they have agreed to pay for).
Conduct client interviews or surveys to gather insights into expectations. Establish guidelines for these inquiries at the firm level and automate sending this document to new clients.
Interviews and surveys have a super-secret second purpose. If you play your cards right, filling one out can indirectly give new clients a better understanding of the following:
- Your firm's offerings
- The value provided
- What they need to do to get the most out of your services
That's a win-win!
Outline a Clear Communication Plan with Your Clients
Creating a structured and proactive communication plan with your clients will produce the best results. It increases the buy-in and the chances they send requested information in a timely manner. Both parties should set expectations.
- Outlines the scope of services
- Sets timelines
- Lays out deliverables in a clear and concise manner
Each plan will be a little different. However, as an accounting firm owner, you can create a template for everyone in your firm to use. This sets expectations for how these communication plans are laid out and what they include. This also enhances collaboration and communication among your firm's team. All support staff, bookkeepers, and accountants can reference this document when needed.
Tailor Communication to Each Individual Client
Clients have varying levels of financial literacy. So, there's no one way to communicate.
- One client will prefer that you speak to them in the most concise way, which usually involves some financial jargon.
- But another will appreciate that you use simple terms and explain things as needed.
- Then, many are somewhere in the middle.
Miscommunication at any level will leave clients feeling annoyed and/or confused.
Identify or create helpful resources for commonly asked questions and topics. Your team can then reference and attach them in communications to help clients understand your services.
This can save your team a ton of time, especially on topics they have to explain frequently. So, figure out what those topics are to streamline communication and increase your firm's productivity.
Create a Checklist for Requesting Essential Documents and Information
Outline a comprehensive checklist of required documents and information and provide it to each client based on the services they're receiving. Be sure to provide clear instructions on how to gather and submit the necessary materials upfront and briefly share why you need this financial or business data and how it supports client success.
This saves both the accountant and the firm time and frustration. You're on top of your game, and it shows. There are no messy follow-up requests or having to go back to ensure you have everything.
Don't forget to provide a secure channel through which they can send you this highly protected information. Even if your firm is a one-person show, you need a secure portal for clients to share financial information.
Finally, don't be shy about discussing the consequences of not receiving documents on time. Reassure them that you'll give them plenty of notice when you need documents and that you require the same.
Encourage Questions and Concerns
Ask for open and proactive communication from clients and offer timely responses and solutions to address client concerns. Keep those channels of communication open and reassure your clients that they're being heard and receiving the most attentive care.
Leverage Technology for Efficient and Proactive Communication
We've already mentioned a few ways to do this, but explore more to streamline and automate specific communications. This can both increase effective communication and the client's perception that your firm is the right choice.
Of course, you're aware of the importance of accounting software. However, other business software tools can further facilitate document collection and sharing. By centralizing communication, they can streamline and automate:
- Scheduling appointments (based on availability)
- Obtaining signatures
- Sending document deadlines and appointment reminders
- Enhancing collaboration and response time
The right software has built-in security and privacy tools so you can manage who sees what as well.
Proactive Communication Keeps Accounting Firm Owners and Their Clients Happy
You rely on your accounting professionals to effectively communicate with clients—to meet deadlines and make sure client needs are met. As the firm owner, you can streamline and automate communication to enhance both productivity and client outcomes with the right strategies and technology.
Wouldn't you be more likely to stick with a company prioritizing clear and client-centered communication?