You can’t seem to get rid of them during high season, but how much should you communicate with your clients the rest of the year?
“Although tax season is a busy few months, it certainly doesn’t seem to end the steady communications,” said Enrolled Agent Janet Sienicki in Schererville, Ind.
“Much communication is necessary due to tax notices, audits, scheduled estimate reviews, other tax services and tax check-ups periodically through the year … through telephone calls, e-mails, document uploads using my website secure portal or face-to-face meetings.” Sienicki also uses her website, newsletters and Facebook postings to reach both clients and potential clients.
Jennifer Brown, an EA at Implex Tax & Accounting in Clearfield, Utah, makes sure to reach out to each client at least once a quarter. “I have email lists and each client is on one of the lists,” she said, “and they get sent an email that pertains to their situation.”
Matter of frequency
Early and often is a good rule for communicating with clients, practitioners said.
“My office calls all 700 clients directly during July,” said EA Kerry Freeman at Freeman Income Tax Service, Anthem, Ariz. “A simple phone call is a cheap way to retain clients. We feel that a personal and real touch builds the relationship and will maintain the client for years.”
“We communicate with clients after tax season by uploading electronic versions of fully signed tax forms and supporting documentation from the season to their respective portals for access and retrieval,” said EA and blogger John Dundon of Taxpayer Advocacy Services in Englewood, Colo.
“In the fall months, we reach out again letting clients know that we’re available to discuss life-changing matters that might have an impact on income withholdings or estimated … payment amounts. In the winter, we offer tax updates as well personal and business tax-planning consultations,” Dundon said.
“Business clients for whom I perform bookkeeping or payroll services, talk to me every month,” said Jeffrey Schneider, an EA in Port St. Lucie, Florida. “Included in their monthly management report is a letter of how I see their financials. I also send out emails on a periodic basis if something I read pertains to a particular client.”
All the news
Like many practitioners, Schneider uses a newsletter, an electronic version that goes to all his clients and networking contacts bimonthly. “All,” he stressed, “have the option to opt out.”
About one in five firms using newsletters, social media or both to stay in touch with clients, according a recent practitioners’ survey from the National Society of Accountants.
Chuck McCabe, president of Peoples Income Tax and The Income Tax School, lauds newsletters (http://www.accountingtoday.com/news/tax-practice/newsletters-for-tax-clients-good-for-them-and-you-79061-1.html) as a way to keep in touch with clients year-round. He suggests drawing up an editorial calendar that maps out important dates, holidays, promotions and other events you can either cover use as an occasion to send your newsletter regularly mail or electronically.
“We do a quarterly electronic newsletter that gets emailed to all clients,” said Laurie Ziegler, an EA at Sass Accounting in Saukville, Wis. “In addition, our website is kept up to date so it’s an effective resource.”
Worksheet to app
Individual clients are “more problematic” when it comes to off-season communication,” Schneider added. “If I see something of extreme importance, such as when the [Affordable Care Act] was passed, I send an email mentioning it, summarizing it and asking them to ask to email or call.”
Above all, try to keep in mind that your clients should be thinking about specific tax matters all year long – and may thank the professional who reminds them of that. Brown, for instance, sends some clients a simple worksheet to help track non-cash donations, others a link to an app that will help in their business.
“The more value they perceive me providing,” Brown added, “the more likely they are to stay a lifelong client.”
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