Banks aren’t typically known for dishing out love to their customers.Walk into a branch of pretty much any financial institution other than a friendly local credit union, and chances are the employees will barely acknowledge you, much less know your name. Most of their customers are literally just a bunch of numbers.
Unfortunately, some people believe their accountants treat them the same way. And they’re depositing their fees in other practitioners’ wallets as a result.
Allan Boress, a CPA and business development consultant for professional service firms, proves this point with a biennial national survey revealing why clients part ways with their CPAs.
“I saw very good CPA firms losing really good clients and they didn’t understand why,” Boress says. So he began calling people to find out, and they weren’t shy about providing answers.
The leading response since he started the survey more than a dozen years ago? Lack of communication and responsiveness, followed by indifference and lack of appreciation -- one partner even admitted it was against firm policy to thank clients for their business because they “may come to expect it.”
In the past month alone, Boress has asked more than 400 clients what their CPAs have saved them on taxes, and not one of them knew. Yet they continue paying for some sort of perceived value. Therein lies the problem. Unlike when purchasing luxury items, people don't choose to shop for tax help, the government tells them they must buy this service, and so they do. As a result, the professionals providing that service come to expect repeat business (most CPAs keep their clients for an average of seven years, according to Boress), even if the work is subpar.
“The level of customer service in my profession is so poor. We take our clients for granted more than any other business because it’s hard to change CPAs because we’re familiar with your work and your business,” he says. “But if someone comes out and actively markets, they end up sucking away your best clients. Nobody is requiring the client to do business with you. I treat every customer as a precious jewel because they didn’t need to do business with me.”
Now that tax season is under way, the Internet and radio are saturated with ads encouraging taxpayers to leave their accountants for cheaper alternatives.
Have you checked your list to see which of your clients haven’t returned for service yet this year? Maybe it’s time to pick up the phone and find out why. Or what about reaching out to those longtime clients to touch base -- not just to collect a fee -- before the season gets so hectic that you have no time to eat, let alone chat.
Some accountants are already neck deep in corporate tax returns, but they can still set aside a few minutes each day to reach out to their best customers. Much of the work can even be delegated to receptionists, as long as they possess the right people skills, Boress suggests.
Don’t bank on your clients staying just because you did the job you were paid to do in the past. With so many seasonal players making it easy for them to leave your firm, why not position yourself as the credit union of CPAs?
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