By Ira S. Rosenbloom, CPA | Optimum Strategies LLC
Many CPA firms do well. Others may be deemed very successful. And then there are those standout firms that are considered irreplaceable. In other words, they have earned the unwavering loyalty of their clients.
Businesses of all sizes are successful because of the people who provide the services. In the accounting world, products like online tax preparation software have taken some of the mystery out of year-end tax prep for individuals and small businesses. It is a service that has become a commodity in many clients’ eyes.
The savvy CPA has already figured out how to leverage every interaction to become more and more valuable to their clients, to be there when clients are most in need, and to prove why they’re superior to other CPA firms.
They have figured out how to become an indispensable partner in their clients’ personal and business accounting needs.
If you want loyal, long-lasting clients, here are five ways to make your firm irreplaceable.
- Create an Efficient Communication Channel – Find out how your clients want to be communicated with, how frequently, and how much is too much. Then create a way to reach them that is informational and direct. Make yourself available in all the ways they need – whether it be by phone, e-mail, or snail mail. Invite them to connect on social media. This is the first step in making sure you’re connected to them over the course of the year and over the course of their accounting needs, not just when it’s tax time.
- Personalize the Message – A lot of CPA firms send out a newsletter a few times a year. Remember, a client typically doesn’t work with the firm; they work with their accountant. Find a way to differentiate and personalize the newsletter by having it come from the team member who is individually handling that client. The content may be exactly the same to each client, but by sending from an individual’s e-mail address or adding a photo or personalized contact information prominently in the newsletter, you will go a long way toward reinforcing that personal connection.
- Exude Empathy – As much as possible, be compassionate and try to anticipate what it’s like to be in the client’s position. Did they just get a tax notice? Are they in the middle of doing a business deal? Do you have to give them some not-so-good news? Put yourself in their place, and be human. Clients already know you’re smart and competent. They also want to be able to relate to you. They will rely on you more and more if they know you can assist them – and help them avoid drama as much as possible.
- Have a Plan – This seems simple, but many CPA firms don’t sit down ahead of time and come up with a way to plan out their engagement with clients over the course of a year. Set expectations. What is the firm going to do, and what are the goals beyond compliance requirements? How are you going to make an impact in the life of the client? Many firms send out engagement letters telling clients they will get things at different times of the year. The truly indispensable CPA, however, includes in that plan an idea of what is going to come out of those meetings or touchpoints. What’s the goal? Firms should sit down and do this yearly and map out how they will engage clients, especially the larger ones who may have more accounting needs throughout the year.
- Be the Quarterback – When bringing in new clients, be selective. Make sure they meet your model profile and that you are confident you can give great service to them all. To be irreplaceable you don’t have to know everything; you just need to know your boundaries and where to go to get what you don’t have. A good quarterback knows how to win when the 10 strongest players on the team are on the field with him, but pandemonium would unfold if that number jumped to 50 players, with many having marginal talent. Don’t stretch yourself too thinly. Stick to your playbook and the best players, and count the trophies.
Ira S. Rosenbloom, CPA, is chief executive officer of Optimum Strategies LLC in Spring House, Pa. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.