You want to build a relationship with each and every one of your accounting clients. To do that, you need strong client communication. But when you’re juggling dozens or even hundreds of clients, effective communication is easier said than done.
Read on for some quick wins that can help you improve client communication when you’re strapped for time.
5 Tips to improve client communication
Miscommunication and other communication issues can lead to more work, longer hours, and frustrated clients (and nobody wants to deal with rude clients).
Here are five tips on how to improve client communication.
1. Communicate regularly
When you have dozens of clients, you may be inclined to limit the number of check-ins between scheduled meetings. But, this could end up causing more work for you down the line.
According to one CPA, the following is a way to strengthen your client relationship while also cutting down your time:
Review of the monthly or quarterly financial statement with the client: If this is done once in a great while, it could take an hour or longer. When done on a regular, i.e., monthly, basis, a meaningful discussion via the phone or virtually could be done in no more than 10 to 15 minutes per client. A partner or owner with 50 business clients would be spending two days a month or 10 percent of their work time interacting at the highest level with their clients. To me, this is a formula that would have you never lose a client.”
Schedule frequent check-ins with your clients to foster communication and enhance your relationship.
2. Expand your client communication strategy
Sticking strictly to in-person meetings is so 1999. Now, you can communicate with your clients across numerous channels. In fact, some clients expect it.
Expand your client communication strategy to meet your clients where they are. Don’t be afraid to get creative.
You can try new communication methods like:
- Email newsletters
- Virtual meetings
- Video messages
Not all client meetings need to be 1:1. You can use webinars or other group meetings to answer common questions and address upcoming tax changes or news.
3. Be clear and concise
Don’t bury the lede!
Journalists are familiar with the phrase “burying the lede.” It’s when a writer doesn’t give you the newsworthy part of the story at the very beginning. They wait—and the reader gets confused and loses interest.
When you’re reading a news article, you want to know exactly why the story matters immediately. Your clients want the same thing. They want to know why what you’re saying matters…
…which is why you need to be clear and concise when working with your clients. Not to mention, you don’t want to confuse your clients with accounting jargon or overly-detailed information.
Have you ever said one thing and watched your client do something completely different? It’s not always because you have a stubborn client—sometimes, it’s because something got lost in translation.
Clear and concise communication:
- Cuts back on misunderstandings
- Solidifies expectations
- Boosts client confidence
- Respects your clients’ time (they’re busy running their business, after all!)
- Increases transparency
In addition to making sure your spoken and written communication is clear and concise, you can also use visual aids, like graphs and charts.
4. Empathize with your clients
“My business is drowning in debt, and we’ve seen a sharp decline in customers these past two years.”
Translation: “I’ve poured my heart and soul into my company, and it’s not working. How will I handle it if I need to close my doors for good?”
Empathy is perhaps one of the most important communication skills you can have in your accounting practice. You’re not just your clients’ tax professional—you’re their trusted advisor, too. And sometimes, your advice isn’t what your clients want to hear.
For effective communication with clients, work on empathizing with them and their situations. How would you feel if you were in their shoes? You’ll still need to give hard truths, but your delivery may change because of adding a little more empathy.
Improving your empathy skills may help you:
- Deepen your investment in your clients’ businesses
- Have a deeper understanding of their specific pain points
- Develop tailored solutions
- Build mutual trust and respect
5. Become an active listener
Empathy is a key communication skill, but it’s not the only one. Another communication skill that’s important for your client relationships is active listening.
Active listening is the process of fully hearing and paying attention to what someone is saying. Looking at your phone, multitasking, or thinking of what you’re going to say when someone is talking are examples of what not to do.
To improve your active listening skills, you should:
- Give clients your complete and undivided attention
- Avoid interrupting while they’re talking
- Repeat back to them what you heard
- Ask clarifying questions to make sure you’re on the same page
Looking to save even more time? Partner with Patriot Software to bring accounting and payroll software to your clients! Patriot’s Partner Program offers discounts for accounting partners, free USA-based support, and more.This is not intended as legal advice; for more information, please click here.