Now is the time to be your clients' problem-solver

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Ever since the coronavirus took the U.S. by storm, I’ve spent the better part of my time on the phone with our clients. At times like these, when so many business owners and other successful people are scared, you can play a vital role as your clients’ go-to problem-solver. Whether it’s debt obligations, cash flow, employee issues or retirement, nobody’s in a better position than you to help clients with issues like these. Why? Because nobody knows their financial situation better.

UPS figured out it was a “logistics provider” for its customers, not just a shipping service. Amazon realized it was a 24/7 fulfillment company, not just a big online bookstore.

If you really want to be building a better relationship with clients and providing more value, you need to be proactive about asking them: “What problems can I help you solve?” It’s not about waiting for them to call you frantically with last-minute issues.

If you find that clients are calling you and saying, “Here was my problem and here’s what I did,” then it’s probably too late. They likely found someone else to help them, or they could have made a costly do-it-yourselfer mistake.

If you haven’t done so already, pick up the phone and call every one of your top 20 or 30 clients personally. Chances are they’re dealing with some serious issues right now and really need your help. Don’t tell me you’ll do it after busy season. We’re in a crisis right now. Whenever you hear words like “pandemic” and “quarantine,” you need to stop what you’re doing and get on the phone with your clients.

By the way, this doesn’t mean you have to have all the answers at your fingertips. Most of your clients are smart people. You just have to ask the right questions, be a good listener, and help them unpack the issues.

Eventually this crisis will pass. Hopefully, it will be another one of those stories when nobody remembers how bad it was or how we ever got through it. But right now, it’s a tough situation and clients may be running into some serious issues. This is where you can really add value as their trusted advisor.

We’re all busy right now with tax season (and recent extensions). But are you honestly going to tell me you’re too busy to call your top 20 or 30 clients? If you don’t have the time, you should consider adjusting how your practice is designed.

It reminds me of the old caveman story. A guy on a bicycle with square wheels is huffing and puffing his way down the road. Eventually he gets passed by a guy who has a bike with round wheels. The guy on the round wheels turns around and shouts, “Dude. You have to change your wheels!” And the square-wheeled rider replies, “I don’t have time to do that; I’m too busy pedaling!”

Having meaningful conversations with your clients when the world is going bananas is your highest-value activity as an advisor. By the time August rolls around, you might likely have nothing to talk about with these clients. What value will you be providing then?

I know you want to get the returns done and start your vacation, but there are bigger fish to fry. A situation like today’s may only come around once every five or 10 years. It’s frightening, but it’s also a unique opportunity. You have to fight the urge to duck for cover and constantly ask yourself, “How do I lean into this situation and use this time to have better conversations with my clients?”

You can spend one day and get on the phone with every single one of your clients and add incredible value by reminding them that you’re always there for them. That’s how you show your value.

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Client strategies Client communications Coronavirus Practice management UPS Tax practice Tax season Accounting firm services