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Jennifer Sicking
Jennifer Sicking
How to Serve Your Clients

A little TLC might just be the answer.

September 17, 2009
by Jennifer Sicking, CPA, PFS

In today's economy, clients are looking to cut or reduce costs. If a client considers you nonessential you are not providing them enough TLC, and I'm not referring to tender loving care.

Touch

By touch I don't mean physical touch. I mean "reaching out" to your clients through meetings, phone calls, e-mail, social media and your Web site.

Meet at least once a year
We, as well as our clients, don't have a lot of time to actually have physical meetings monthly, quarterly or semi-annually. I do think it is important to meet in person at least once a year.

Phone calls — Return them!
Phone calls are probably more important to some clients than others. I have some clients who I speak to once a year. Most of our communications are electronic. BUT, should a client call and leave a message, try to return the call within 24 hours. If not, you are giving them the message that they are not important enough to you.

E-mail is so old fashioned
You are probably laughing, but am I right? How often do you delete what you consider "spam" from your inbox? You don't want to be considered "spam" to your clients. There is a careful balance in the frequency and quality of your e-mails. You should also respond timely to client e-mails. If you don't immediately know the answer to a question, at least e-mail them back and let them know that you are looking into it.

Social media — come on, join the bandwagon!
Social media like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn is quickly gaining popularity. See CPAs Get Serious About Twitter on AICPA's CPA Insider™ or What CPAs Need to Know About Social Networking on the Texas Society of Public Accountants Web site. You have to be careful in creating a balance. You don't want to be "on" all the time because people will think you are just trying to sell your services. Conversely you don't want to be so personal that clients feel you are intruding on their privacy. There is a way to open up to people without giving them personal information. Follow Tony Hsieh the CEO of Zappos.com on Twitter to see how it should be done. There really is no other way to touch so many people at once on such an intimate level.

Web site — Invest in it!
Your Web site MUST be on its "A" game. You can't just have a one-page phone number and address site anymore. One of the first places people go to learn more about you or your company is your Web site. You must find ways to lead your existing clients to your site as well. You can add a "file upload" feature, send e-mail notifications for new content, have commonly requested generic forms available for easy retrieval, add a link for current news of the firm and more.

Listen

Listening is so important. Pay attention! If your client prefers a phone call and not an e-mail, then call. If your client hates surprises, make the effort to plan ahead. Listen to your client's concerns and accommodate them as much as you possibly can without impairing your ability to successfully manage your practice or your personal life.

Connect

You must find a way to connect with your clients that works for you and the client. Find something that can create a strong bond, something that helps the client relate to you. Being a financial advisor is an intimate relationship. People have told me that meeting with their advisor was worse than the dentist and the OB/GYN combined. Ask someone on the street how much they made last year and see what kind of response you get. They would think you were crazy. It is important that clients are comfortable with you.

Conclusion

Who would have thought that someone who deals with numbers would have to learn the art of communication? If mastered, your clients will feel like you are invested in their future and visualize you in their future, not their past.

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Jennifer Sicking CPA, PFS practices at Ken Hughes & Associates, PC in Flower Mound, Texas. Her practice includes federal and state tax return preparation with an emphasis on planning. She also provides business consulting for her clients, who are primarily involved in the health care industry. Outside of the office Sicking is a guest lecturer at the University of Texas at Arlington. Her lecture topics relate to the financial management of healthcare related businesses. Follow Sicking on twitter @jensicking. Make her your friend on Facebook or connect with her on LinkedIn.