You made it through April 15, now talk to your clients
Many small businesses who work with accountants have been telling me they are often very surprised about their tax bill. There is much frustration over how much they owe. Of course, the accountants are the ones who are the target of their frustration.
I am hearing from the accounting community that I work with that they are frustrated with the tax law and the changes that have happened there. Accountants are also frustrated that their clients don’t have up to date information, or that they have waited until the last minute to provide the necessary information they need to serve the client in a more timely way.
Communication to alleviate the frustration
What we really need to do is talk about the communication piece. The lack of communication results in frustration, unproductive time spent on a project, and often a loss of income for the accountant and possibly fines, penalties and/or debt for the client. Clients and their accounting professionals need to do better. We cannot control our clients, so as the accounting professional, we need to initiate better communication from us.
Don’t rely on client understanding
First of all, we (the Accounting Professionals) cannot rely on a business owner or an individual to research the tax law or understand it. It is very overwhelming to most small businesses and extremely confusing to them – and it is not the client’s role. That is the accountant’s role. The accountant’s job is to help their client as much as possible to understand how tax affects them in their situation.
Secondly, we (the Accounting Professionals) need to help the client to understand the need to keep their books up to date. Again, this can be very overwhelming for even our “simplest” clients, not to mention those whose accounting can be a bit more complicated. They need to understand the importance of not just doing a bank reconciliation, but also how their financial statements can help them run their business better, providing insights on cash flow, pricing and expense management.
Accounting professionals need to create a type of training program for their clients that can communicate the solutions available for them. Most of the time clients don’t care about the details of the tax law or the expense apps we find fascinating. What they need to understand is how the tax law is going to affect them and what they need to do to prepare. They need to understand that you have researched (and possibly are using) tools that can save them time, make them efficient, and relieve them from worry. They want action steps and a bottom line. Accountants can be more proactive and provide some really short education pieces for their clients. Using tools like Zoom or Loom, you can record quick 1- minute videos, or even more in-depth 20 or 30-minute videos specifically for one client about an issue. You can even do a short webinar for your clients that they can register for or even watch later, helping many clients understand a change in tax law, a new app your firm is using with clients or a change in your firm’s processes.
It’s time for the accounting community to stop being reactive.
Communication is greatly needed in our industry, and it should start with us. Remember George Bernard Shaw’s famous quote, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
There are more tools than ever to provide the information clients need. Be proactive by connecting with clients in ways that help them understand and prepare for the future.
If you are not sure where to begin, contact Carla Caldwell – she is able to help your accounting firm develop strategies and plans to get your firm where you want it to be!