Your accounting clients here in Pennsylvania need to hear from you on a regular basis so that you remain in their conscious mind whenever they are thinking about their finances. While companies and self-employed people pay quarterly taxes, most individuals don’t think much about their taxes until the end of the year, or even the beginning of the next. Then they may scramble to get ready, and if they don’t hear from you regularly, they might find someone else to help them.
Keep your clients
You should have a communication plan that keeps you in regular contact with your clients. The best way to keep clients is to show them that you care. Keep them in the loop about any new tax changes. Give them tips throughout the year that may help them save on taxes. It’s unfortunate at the end of the year when you discover that your client could have taken advantage of a tax deduction if they had only known about it and kept the proper records.
The later months of the year are a great opportunity to reach out to your clients personally. Give a phone call and discuss with them any lessons from the previous year taxes; remind them of the types of information you will need and the documents they need to collect; ask them if they have any tax questions or financial concerns.
Keep the conversation professional and relatively short, but be sure to also develop a personal connection. If your client has children in college, ask how they’re doing. If you know they changed jobs recently, ask them how it’s going. Show that you care about them as people and not just as clients.
Build your business
When you ask if they have any questions, they may ask you financial questions outside of the issue of taxes. For instance, they might inquire about investment opportunities, saving for children’s education, planning for retirement, obtaining loans, etc.
Find out more about what they are looking to learn or to do. These are opportunities for you to build your business and you have several options. Many accountants and CPAs offer additional services, such as estate planning, small-business bookkeeping or other business support services, or help with obtaining loans. If you do offer any value-added services, gently guide the conversation to determine if your client needs what you offer. If you frequently hear clients talk about the same needs but you do not offer that service, it could be your cue to expand into that area of expertise.
Another option that accountants have is to develop referral partnerships. For instance, if you make an arrangement with a loan provider or a financial advisor and your client expresses a need in one of these areas, you can refer your client to your partner. In return, your partners refer their clients to you for accounting or tax services. It’s a win-win.
Plan your tax season
Before you end your conversation with your client, be sure to schedule a time when you can meet. Some clients simply drop off their documents and wait for the accountant to contact them if there is a problem. But try to schedule a short meeting to go through the papers together, revisit any issues the client had in the past, and address any questions your client may have expressed that you promised to look into. This time together strengthens the human bonds and also allows your client to see you in your professional environment, reinforcing their view of you as an expert upon whom they can rely.
Scheduling appointments in advance also has the advantage of limiting the likelihood of being swamped when your clients realize all at the same time that they haven’t gotten started on their taxes yet! When you schedule an appointment with a client, send a follow-up email or note in the mail confirming the meeting and restating in writing the items you will need and the things you will discuss. Then send a few more reminders before the date. These steps will help you strengthen your client/provider relationship, limit no-shows and cancellations, and help you manage your “busy season.”