10 Simple Tips Any CPA Can Use to Strengthen Client Relationships
Do you remember a time when sending a note meant writing a handwritten letter? When speaking on the phone always meant calling a landline? Today, email and smartphones often replace those forms of communication. Don’t get me wrong – it is great to be able to reach someone in a moment’s notice, but there is something to be said about the personal touch associated with those other methods of communication.
With all my reliance on digital communications, I sometimes have to remind myself of the value of returning a client’s call rather than sending them a quick email. Although the latter is more efficient, a phone call can make a world of difference in clarifying any issues and developing rapport.
Below are 10 simple but significant tips that I follow to help strengthen my relationships with clients:
Show up on time. I always arrive promptly and prepared. It never hurts to show up a few minutes early.
Listen closely. I have found that the best way to help my clients is to have a thorough understanding of their needs.
Dress professionally. Wearing a suit is an easy way to reinforce instant credibility.
Extend a firm handshake. A strong handshake and focused eye contact allows me to leave a positive first impression and shows that I am confident.
Wait for the answer when you ask “How have you been?” or “How are you?” If a client gives me the standard “fine,” then I ask follow-up questions to show genuine interest. My goal is to be both professional and personal.
Inquire about your clients’ expectations on day one. For me, this includes knowing when they need deliverables such as the audit report. If I can’t meet that expectation, I discuss the time frames of when I can deliver them.
Rehearse your questions. I like to think about what I am going to say prior to the meeting. Being prepared helps keep nervousness at bay.
Follow through with tasks. This is very important. If I tell a client that I will send the preliminary list of items or prior year templates on Monday, I must follow through – even when I am swamped with other assignments.
Keep them informed on progress. I do not wait for a client to contact me about the audit or tax return. I update them regularly to maintain credibility and avoid any possible client anxiety.
Bring or send donuts to their office. Donuts make everyone smile. Why not say thank you with a box?
I bet you are thinking this sounds like common sense. It’s true that these tips are basic business etiquette, but it takes a conscious effort. With the rapid pace of technological advancements, it is easy for us to revert to less personal methods of communication. Remember that technology can make you efficient, but it has limits as well. Don’t forget about the value of strengthening client relationships through more personal methods of communication.
Marie Gieringer, CPA, Manager – Audit, JPMS Cox, PLLC, Little Rock, Arkansas. Marie attended the AICPA Leadership Academy in 2011 and currently serves on the AICPA Competition Task Force. She specializes in auditing nonprofits, and serves clients in a number of other industries including health care, private equity, manufacturing and retail, construction, technology and real estate.
Doughnuts image via Shutterstock