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Rick Telberg
Rick Telberg
 

Five Questions You Need to Ask Clients Today

If you’re not making time to get to know your clients better, then you’re missing an opportunity that may not come again for another year. By then, a competitor may have beaten you to the punch. How’s busy season so far? Join the survey; get the results.

February 8, 2010
by Rick Telberg/At Large

Busy season may be hectic and the hours may be long, but if you’re not making time to get to know your clients better, then you’re missing an opportunity that may not come again for another year. By then, a competitor may have beaten you to the punch.

Many accountants, auditors and tax professionals don’t realize how much busy season is, in fact, “opportunity season.” You have your clients’ undivided attention. They should have yours.

Beyond the routine tax preparation and tax planning, beyond the reconciliations and check marking, you need to be using client face-time to explore their greater needs and goals and your firm’s performance and opportunities.

Busy Season 2010: How’s It Going So Far?

Join the survey; get the results.

(Free. Confidential.)

It’s not hard once you know where to start, according to Scott H. Cytron, a 20-year veteran of marketing and communications in the accounting profession.

“Your clients may seem happy,” Cytron warns, “but how much do you really know about their satisfaction with your firm and services? Have you asked them?” Mostly, accountants don’t ask, and certainly not in a systematic way. I call it “Don’t ask, don’t know.”

The reason? “Mainly,” Cytron says, “accountants just don’t really know how to ask the question. They’re afraid they’ll hear bad news. And then what would they do? But, honestly, is that any way to run a business? There should be no surprises.”

Take the opportunity to do more than just ask “How are we doing?” Ask how the client is doing. Find out what the client wants from their life and business. See if there are ways you can help, professionally or just as a friend.

Cytron suggests five questions to get started:

  • How can we help build your business?
  • How do our firm's solutions help your efficiency and your service to your own customers or clients?
  • How can we serve you more effectively?
  • What's changed in your business over the last 12 months? (You should know most of this answer already if you've done your homework.)
  • We always appreciate referrals. What kinds of referrals are you looking for?

They key is to make checking a client’s pulse part of your everyday habit. When you ask “Hi. How are you?” you should mean it. And be prepared to ask for more.

On another level, the firm should be checking client-satisfaction levels at least annually through methodical surveys. Cytron says the surveying doesn’t always need to be completely scientific, and, in fact, rarely is. “But you can get a pretty good idea of where you stand with a just a few responses,” he says. "And then you'll know what you need to do next." Which could range from damage control on a particular client relationship to more in-depth research.

But accountants need to break the habit of answering e-mail with e-mail, text with text, voicemail with voicemail. Every client query is an opportunity for an old-fashioned conversation. Try the phone. Get lunch.

Who knows what could happen?

BUSY SEASON: How’s busy season so far? Join the survey; get the results.

COMMENTS: Rants, raves, questions, ideas? E-mail Rick Telberg.

Copyright © 2010 CPA Trendlines/BSG LLC. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission. First published by the AICPA.

About Rick Telberg

Rick Telberg is editor at large/director of online content.

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Disclaimer: Any views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the AICPA or CPA2Biz. Official AICPA positions are determined through certain specific committee procedures, due process and deliberation.