When it comes to retaining clients and earning valuable references, we all know that quality communication is key. If anything, it’s become more crucial in recent years as accountants and CPAs try to stand out in a crowded marketplace and also face threats from technology like automation and artificial intelligence (AI). While your competitors won’t help you much here, you can actually leverage these technologies—among many others—to enhance the frequency, depth, and efficiency of your client communication. Here are 6 ideas to get you started.
- Automate, or at least upgrade, your meeting scheduling. There are a handful of recommended AI meeting schedulers that can interface with your clients on your behalf, so you don’t waste your time responding to emails and figuring out calendars. If you don’t trust a robot to communicate with your clients, though, there are a bevy of apps that can let clients easily pick a time when you’re both free.
- Send automatic meeting reminders. While you’re streamlining your meetings, consider sending automated meeting reminders via either text message or email. It’s a way to cut down on miscommunication and last-minute cancellations without any extra effort on your part, and your clients will appreciate it.
Additionally, you may want to use this same technology to remind clients to book an appointment. Set it up for tax season, every quarter, or if they haven’t seen you within a certain timeframe.
- Schedule your reports. As an accountant or CPA, you likely need reports from your accounting, engagement management, or business intelligence software for many of your meetings. Stay one step ahead of yourself by scheduling these reports to get automatically generated and delivered.
You can set reports to automatically go to your clients or staff right before a meeting, or schedule them to be sent to you a day before your meeting so you have time to make sure everything looks okay. You should also automate reports to be sent to stakeholders in between meetings so everyone stays up to date in the meantime.
- Stay in touch with chat apps. It may seem too casual, but it could be worthwhile to let clients contact you via a chat app like Slack or even through text message. While some clients will always prefer an old-fashioned phone call, others will be happy to have an option that’s often more efficient. If they reach out to you this way with quick questions, you can rapidly respond to them while cutting down on your backlog of voicemails and emails.
- Use voice over internet protocol (VOIP) for phone calls. For the clients and many issues that require phone calls, use a VOIP service instead of your landline. VOIP is essentially a way of making calls using the internet instead of a traditional phone provider. It’s often less expensive, and it’s always more flexible, since you can use it anywhere you have internet access.
You can easily set up VOIP services to forward calls in a triage system, so if a client rings your office and no one’s there, the call will go to your cell phone, and then a colleague’s phone, and so on. This way, they’ll be able to get in touch with someone.
- Develop policies. No matter how much technology you have, if you don’t have the right policies, your client communication won’t improve.
There will always be cases when you can’t immediately respond to clients, so it’s a good idea to set response policies with regards to email, voicemails, and other types of messages you receive.
Your clients themselves may need some guidelines too. While some may not be that digitally savvy, others will welcome cutting-edge methods of communication and will be eager to contact you more frequently. If they become overenthusiastic, tell them what the procedure should be.
No matter which communication methods you use, remember that quality will always eclipse quantity. After all, your clients pay you for your expertise and the meaningful help and communication that comes along with it.