Younger clients expect less of a personal relationship with their accountants, according to a new study by CCH.

At the CCH User Conference in Orlando on Monday, Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting CEO Kevin Robert talked about the changing nature of the relationship between accountants and their clients. While Baby Boomers expected to be able to ask their accountant about any financial questions that come up, many younger clients feel more comfortable finding out the information on their own through the Internet. More often now, they value convenience and being able to reach their accountant through client portals and other forms of technology.

“The desire to be connected, combined with today’s digital infrastructure, has profoundly changed the way we do business today,” said Robert. “We live in the age of instant gratification. Clients expect you to be connected.”

He noted that with the economic decline of recent years, many firms have downsized and no longer have as many staff members to stay in constant touch with clients. That has affected firm dynamics as well, as younger staff members become less reliant on older mentors at the firm.

“Baby Boomers are being replaced by fewer and younger people,” Robert noted. “They’re more used to picking up a mouse than asking you a question.”

CCH has been moving its customers in that direction too, having introduced the ProSystem fx Portal, which lets clients upload their tax organizers to the accountant’s website, as well as its CCH Site Builder product to help accountants build more of an online presence. CCH’s survey found that most individual clients never go to their accounting firm’s website, and 70 percent were not aware of all the services offered by the firm.

The company is creating a new Innovation Lab to help accounting firms better understand what their clients want and how to use technology to better serve them (see CCH Opens Innovation Lab).

“Spend some time with your clients,” said Robert. “Watch how your clients work. Make their lives easier.”

Firms can sign up for the CCH Innovation Lab by sending an e-mail to Connect@CCHGroup.com.