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11 Easy Ways to Build Good Client Relationships

HandshakeIt is important that we, as CPAs and trusted advisers, work on creating long-term relationships with clients at every opportunity. We cannot forget that public accounting has and always will be a people business. While it has a little bit to do with number crunching, most clients want to hire and retain a professional they trust and respect.

That includes you. Whether it is your first year as a CPA or you are a seasoned senior CPA, you are making direct contact with clients on a more frequent basis than many of your managers, directors and partners. As a result, your daily interactions with clients should not just be about getting the answers you need to complete your work papers. Instead, your client interactions should include a conscious effort to build credibility and a personal relationship.

Here is a collection of easy things you can do to start building positive relationships with new and existing clients.

  • Show up on time. I would even challenge you to be early. The best way to show you do not care is to arrive late.
  • Smile. Starting each day with a smile can only make everyone’s day better.
  • Dress like an accountant. In my opinion, everyone should spend their first paycheck on two great suits and a five-star meal for their parents. Wearing a suit is an easy way to earn instant credibility.
  • Give firm handshakes. We all know how awkward a limp handshake is. A weak handshake can show a lack of confidence. How can someone be confident in you if you are not displaying confidence in yourself?
  • Sincerely ask, “How have you been?” or “How are you?” If they give you the standard “fine,” then find something in their office to talk about or ask about their vacation plans. It is possible to be professional and personal.
  • Inquire about your clients’ expectations on day one. For me, this includes knowing when they expect the audit report. This allows for an early conversation with the client if their expectation is unrealistic.
  • Rehearse your questions. It is easy to sound like you know what you are talking about if you think about what you are going to say before you say it.
  • Return phone messages with phone calls. I know we live in a tech savvy world, but sometimes the client just wants to hear your voice.
  • Follow through with tasks. This boils down to doing what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it. I know it is easy to push off sending the preliminary list of items or prior year templates when it is not pressing and you are already swamped. However, you have to find a way to do it.
  • Keep them informed on progress. Do not wait for a client to contact you about the audit or tax return. That will only make both of you frustrated and anxious.
  • Bring or send treats to their office. Why not reward our clients for being prepared or thank them for simply engaging us?

I bet you are thinking this sounds like common sense and easy to do. Well, it is, but it takes a conscious effort. The daily grind wears on everyone, but we cannot forget what is important: our clients. Remember that building a relationship goes beyond the technical and into the personal.

Marie Gieringer, CPA, Audit Manager, JPMS Cox, PLLC. Marie graduated from the University of Central Arkansas earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting and personal financial planning. She has served clients in a number of industries, including nonprofit, health-care, construction, manufacturing and retail, employee benefit plans and real estate. Marie is a member of the AICPA, served on the AICPA’s Marketing Task Force and is a graduate of the 2011 AICPA Leadership Academy. She is a member of the Arkansas Society of CPAs and serves on the Professional Ethics Committee.

Handshake image via Shutterstock


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