Unlike Trix, texting isn't just for kids.

Communicating by text has made its way into the professional circle. In a world of digital dialoguing, texting is a powerful tool. It's fast, convenient, and just plain cool. But beyond the lure of hip new technology, texting just makes sense as a core collaboration tool within firms, especially when you consider the amount of work conducted via mobile devices these days.

I truly realized the value of texting this April after communicating with a client via phone (not voice). Here's how it went down:

Text from client: "Hey, Thanks 4 taking care of Maggie." [The client's girlfriend needed an estate tax return for a family member.]

Text from Jody: "No problem."

Client: "Do you know when I might get my refund or status?"

Jody: "Just checked...by April 27th."

Client: "Great, Thx!"

I'll admit that last year I didn't quite understand the value of this particular mode of communication. When clients would text tax information to me, my first thoughts were, "How do I print this out?" and "Man, this is going to take more time." I quickly realized that a text was no more difficult to document than if the client had phoned in their information. When I received a text, I simply recorded the new information and continued with their return.

GOOD FOR CLIENT AND FIRM

This year, I'm all about texting. In fact, it's become a regular and welcome practice. The text thread example above is just one of numerous messages I received from clients this tax season. Clients love that they can quickly text me with information as it comes up and when it's convenient for them - whether it's in their office or on their way to pick up the dog from the groomer. There's no need to phone it in or wait until they are back at their computer to e-mail. It's immensely convenient. And I love getting the client's information immediately, as they think of it.

A large part of my client base is made up of individuals who are not traditional "office workers," including contractors and salon owners. These on-the-go folks are more apt to text me because it's easy. And even with a smart phone, not everyone has mobile e-mail service - making the text message a core communication channel. For me, it's much easier to contact these clients via text than tracking them down with phone calls. And there is nothing I love more during tax season than easy.

Firms need to take advantage of new communication tools. If it's easier for the client, or the client's preferred mode of communication, it just makes sense. Not to mention, texting is another way to maintain consistent contact with clients and keep them engaged with your firm.

Text certainly hasn't replaced e-mail or the phone, but it is a strong new contender. In my case, I actually prefer receiving a text instead of a voice message. First, I don't have to go through all the steps of retrieving the voicemail. Text messages are easier to access. Second, text messages have a limit on characters, so clients are forced to leave a succinct and to-the-point message. And let's face it, when leaving a voicemail, most clients will talk at length.

Texting is also a great communication tool for staff. For me, it has become an efficient way for staff and admin to contact me while I'm out of the office. It has increased my ability to leave in the middle of the day and not lose touch. Staff can easily push information out to me even if I'm meeting with a client or prospect. And it is never an interruption ... as long as I remember to put my phone on vibrate!

RESIST YOUR RESISTANCE

There are still those who are resistant to texting, simply because they don't know how to do it. Like any other technology these days, it's very easy to learn. Typically you'll be texting freely in a matter of minutes once you've navigated the feature on your phone. If you have younger staff, have one of them help you out. You'll be up and running in no time - and it will foster positive employee interaction.

I've also heard some professionals say that text messages are an interruption - though I can't quite figure out how they can be more intrusive than spam e-mail, which is simply out of control no matter what you do. Text can be blocked or ignored until a later time, just like e-mails or voicemail. And if you prefer not to get text messages from certain clients, you simply don't give out your cell number.

JUST MIND YOUR ETIQUETTE

Texting is cool and trendy, but professionals should use discretion and good judgment. First, it's important to understand your audience - whether that means your boss, peers or clients. Part of good judgment is appreciating that it's okay to text your co-workers or your boss to ask a quick question, but it's probably not okay to text a client who is more conservative and values formality.

It's also good practice to use texting discretion. Avoid texting while in a face-to-face meeting with clients or co-workers. Though there is always an impulse to immediately text back, the person in front of you deserves your attention, not your phone.

Texting is simply another way to communicate with clients. The more we can "talk" to our clients, the stickier the relationship. And clients who feel a true connection to their trusted advisor rarely leave. Texting offers another touch point. Take advantage of it.

So what are you waiting for? Text it up!

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