Effective communication is the essence of a fruitful relationship with your clients. So how do you ensure it? Here you’ll find the answers you’re looking for.

The accounting industry isn’t exactly famous for excellent communication. The job’s nature requires you to focus more of your efforts on numbers than people. And yet, no matter how good you are as an accountant, you can’t develop strong relationships with your clients without being a good communicator.

The reason why many accountants often have trouble communicating with their clients is quite simple. You see, accounting is an exact science while communication is more of an art. Mastering it isn’t the same as becoming an expert in accounts, but it’s certainly doable.

With a few simple tips, you can become an excellent communicator that clients will love maintaining long-term relationships with.

So, without further ado, let’s uncover some of the best communication secrets.

1. Create a Systematic Communication Schedule

If you had to name all the occasions when you believe you should talk to a client, you’d probably answer just a meeting or two each year. Most accountants strip this down to the reports they’re sending to clients, along with some minor discussions.

However, there’s so much more to effective communication than this. A good communication schedule should have four parts:

Annual General Meeting Once a Year

When you finish the annual report for your client, how do you send it to them?

I really hope the answer isn’t ‘email’ or something like that. You can craft a perfect report, but if the quality of your service is subpar, this won’t really matter.

This is why an annual meeting is important. Instead of just sending the report for sign-off or your client’s signature, you can answer any questions that your clients might have. The report might be quite complicated or even creative, and you don’t want to leave the client wondering.

Instead, you want to make sure your customer service is impeccable, as there are additional opportunities here. You can set yourself apart from the crowd by being an accountant who actually cares, which can do wonders for your business.

Check-Up Visits

When was the last time you visited your client at their business?

If not, you might want to change this as soon as possible. This is something that every client will appreciate, as it shows a commitment on your part that can lead to a stronger relationship.

In addition, it’s a perfect chance for you to gain more clients from referrals and word of mouth. Not only do you get to know your client much better, but you can also significantly expand your base.

So, how often should you do this? As a rule of thumb, twice a year is enough. It’s frequent enough to build a lasting relationship without going overboard with client visits.

Proactive Phone Calls

Are you available to your clients whenever they call? It’s great if that’s the case, but that may not be enough. Instead of waiting for a client to call you with whatever issue, why not call them and see how they’re doing?

Most if not all of your clients will be grateful to learn that you care about their business. Ask them if there’s anything that you can do to help. Even if there isn’t, they’ll see that you’re truly there for them, and this alone can make them want to work with you for a long time to come. Do this every 3 to 4 months and you’ll keep your client happy with your service.

The fourth aspect isn’t exactly a part of the schedule but a general piece of advice you need to remember. As such, it deserves special attention.

2. Don’t Charge for Communication

Charging for calls and meetings would be absurd. An accountant should be able to make money based on the quality of their work, not something that’s a matter of course.

Sure, your communication provides value that you might feel a need to charge for it. But do you know what happens when someone has to pay for a phone call? They’ll do it as rarely as they possibly can. You can imagine what that’ll do to a relationship.

If a client needs to pay a fee every time they have to talk to you, they’ll keep the occasions to a minimum as they’re not going to waste their money on chit chat. However, this chat and catching up can help you build long-term relationships and make you a much more desirable accountant.

Don’t underestimate the word of mouth that can come out of this. Business owners and managers talk to one another. Those who have to pay for communication will jump ship as soon as they learn of something else who doesn’t. This is why calls and meetings should always be free. Treat them as nothing more than a part of your outstanding customer care.

Be Succinct to Avoid Needlessly Lengthy Conversations

3. Be Succinct to Avoid Needlessly Lengthy Conversations

It’s nice to have a long chat with your clients every once in a while. You get to know each other better and build a closer relationship. However, more often than not, the client wants to talk business. More specifically, they have concrete questions for you to answer.

When this is the case, you’ll want to get straight to the point. You’re going to know much more about accounts than the client, but you shouldn’t share all of it. Instead, keep the discussion to what a client really needs to know and then move on.

This is especially important with emails since they should be informative and not conversational. Keep it brief and don’t beat around the bush. And if there’s some time left after you’ve answered all of the client’s questions, you can chit chat for a little while.

4. Avoid the “Too Much” Communication Issue (Give Clients Rooms to Breathe)

Yes, I keep pushing the point that you need to talk to your clients as much as possible, so this might seem a bit counter intuitive.

Except it isn’t.

Some clients may not want to have that much communication with you. They’d rather want you to deliver the results and briefly discuss any issues that come up. This is perfectly fine, and you shouldn’t pursue more communication if the client doesn’t want it.

Research shows that 12% of clients don’t even want to receive phone calls from their accountants. Instead, the annual report with some discussion is all they need.

So, how do you know if any of your clients prefer it to be this way?

It’s easy – just ask them. You can survey your clients to see how many of them want you to call them regularly. Aside from this, you can ask them about the exact level of communication they need or desire.

This will help you avoid suffocating your client with excess and unwanted conversations. Find the balance for each client and adapt your communication level accordingly.

Ask Questions the Right Way

5. Ask Questions the Right Way

Regardless of your communication with clients, you always need to design the questions to bring you closer to solving a problem. This is not to say that you should turn a meeting or phone call into a Q&A session.

You need to keep it conversational instead of interrogating. Ask a question, pause, and carefully listen to the answer. Don’t just swarm your client with one question after another. Instead, create a mini-topic for each question to find out more details.

A great way to do this is to answer a question with another one. Instead of rushing through all the questions, go a bit more in-depth. This will keep the conversation flowing and make it much more pleasant for both you and your client.

Another thing that you’ll want to do is to give positive strokes to show your client that you’re listening. Things like ‘I see’, ‘I understand’, or ‘Tell me more about that’ can go a long way towards letting the client know that you’re an active listener.

Lastly, always be confirming. Confirm every piece of data or important point that your client makes during the conversation. This sends a message that you understand them well, and it will make sure that you don’t miss anything of importance.

The Takeaway

As you can see, effective communication isn’t hard. All it takes is using a few simple tricks for creating stronger bonds between you and your client. By following the tips above, you can become a great communicator and bring your customer care to a whole new level.

Make no mistake, this can have a huge impact on your business. You’ll be able to retain clients for much longer and attract more new clients Communication isn’t many accounting firms’ strong suit, so it can be a great way to differentiate yourself from the competition.

Bear in mind that this will take some time and practice. As I mentioned, many accountants aren’t great communicators, as their strengths lie elsewhere. If you get serious about making communication a vital part of your business, this will soon become second nature.