A new era of client relationships
It’s not hyperbole to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected every aspect of the way we do business, and many of the changes are far from temporary. Everything from the way we use tech to the nature of leadership has had to adapt to this year’s unprecedented circumstances. The approach we take to client relationships is no different.
At this point, you’ve probably read a guide or two on how to adapt your messaging and client experience to a post-coronavirus world. You may have even seen a compendium of some of the bone-headed mistakes big brands made at the start of the pandemic. With nearly half-a-year of communication behind us, we can begin to extrapolate some of the key takeaways that will continue to influence client relationships going forward.
It’s time we add a few pillars to the list of the tried-and-true basics of relationship building in accounting. While the need to adapt communication and messaging strategies is true of businesses across the board, it’s especially important in ours. Your clients trust you with their most intimate and vital business information. If you absorb the lessons that have been forged in this unprecedented time, you stand to form bonds that will be nearly unbreakable.
Empathize before you scrutinize
There is something about challenging times that bring us together. Before the pandemic, it was easy to see your firm as dealing with a different set of goals and concerns than those of your clients. It’s much easier to see now that we’re all in this together. As such, it’s crucial to go out your way to learn about your client as people, understand what they’re going through in their lives, and tailor your services and communication accordingly.
You may say that humanizing your clients too much will hurt your ability to assess their financials, but I would argue the exact opposite. Yes, there is a portion of accounting that requires clinical data analysis, even when it comes to advisory services. That work is enhanced by human connection, not hampered by it. It provides context that allows you to provide actionable, resonant advice in service of your clients.
Meet clients where they’re comfortable
Just as surely as we’ve changed the nature of our messages, we’ve transformed how those messages are delivered. The fact that Zoom weddings are now a common occurrence goes to show how quickly these changes are being adopted. There will come a time when meeting virtually is no longer a prudent health decision, but our new variety of communication tools is here to stay.
Some of your clients may be tech-savvy. Others may be dying to meet you in person again and trying to figure out a responsible way to do so. One group of clients may prefer written communication via email, another meeting via Zoom, and yet another via a quick text before an extended phone call. The combinations are endless, but if you can figure out the recipe that works for each of your clients, you’ll find reaching them easier than ever before.
Be willing to have the tough conversations
The stress that the pandemic has put on businesses worldwide has led to some serious heart-to-hearts between clients and services providers of all kinds. I’m willing to wager that you’ve had at least one such discussion with a client of your own. Broaching topics like downsizing and applying for government aid is no easy task. Once you’ve crossed that bridge, nothing is off limits.
This openness allows you to be a better accountant to your clients. It gives you more information to work with and more of an impetus to provide powerful insights. While we’d all like to provide such insights under rosier circumstances, we can’t forget what the challenges of 2020 have taught us. With what you’ve learned and experienced this year, you can build stronger client relationships than ever. Don’t miss the opportunity.