Top 10 things SMEs want from their accountant
As an accountant what you perceive your clients want and what you deliver can be different things. But in today’s business world there’s no excuse for guessing.
After being in public practice for 12+ years and continuing to have a role in this sphere (after co-founding Xero), it’s become pretty clear to me what the priorities are for small business clients. My top 10 things are pretty simple, but they really work. This should be revision for accountants and if you’re a small business owner, this is what you should expect. If you’re not, find a new accountant.
In order of importance:
- Get my tax done right
Predictable perhaps, but for most SMEs this is their biggest priority. Your clients don’t understand tax so they rely on accountants to get it right and they prefer not to have issues with a tax authority, let alone be investigated
- Be proactive
SMEs don’t really have huge amounts of time to sit back and think about how to make their business better. They want their accountant to keep an eye on stuff and alert them to things that can help. Hard to do when you have 500+ clients, I know. Luckily there are great software applications like Xero that make it easier.
- Wow me
Everyone loves an unexpected service or result. We have to think of ways to Wow our clients. It can be anything from remembering their child is playing in an upcoming football tournament to being invited to a one-on-one breakfast for a catch up. Remember in the professional services game, the relationship is everything. It takes work though.
- Return my calls
Okay this is customer service 101 and I know you’re busy, but you must communicate with your clients in a timely manner. If you don’t, no matter how good you are, they will get frustrated and start looking elsewhere. Make this a priority every day.
- Help me improve my cashflow
Cash is King and the lifeblood of any business and yet it is generally the scarcest resource they have. Anything you can do to help your client to better understand how cash moves through their business, and ways to improve this, will benefit them. If you haven’t already, take a look at the Cash Summary report in Xero.
- Save me tax
This is the best darn dollar any business can save, because tax spend doesn’t help it make more money. In my opinion you need to understand your client’s appetite for how aggressive they want to be on tax. There are nearly always things you can do to legally minimize tax. Look for these and suggest when suitable.
- Don’t send me a surprise bill
This is the number one reason why clients leave their accountant. Always provide your clients with a quote for everything, and if you don’t know how much it will be, give an upper limit of where you will stop. No one likes not knowing how much they’re going to have to pay before they make the decision to buy.
- Know my game plan
If you don’t know what your client’s aspirations and plans in life are, you need to find out. Really easy, just ask the question. The accountant is in the best position to help the business owner with life goals. This could be another Wow moment for clients.
- I wanna be treated well no matter how small
Be really careful with your communication. Be sure that the right people in your client’s organisation are talking to the right people in your firm. Don’t let your junior accountant hassle the business owner for something that the bookkeeper could deal with. Again this shows the importance of relationships, but at the correct levels. Every client likes to feel they’re important, which they are. So treat them as such.
- Be nice to my staff
Make sure your team treats the people in your client’s business with professional courteously. As accountants we deal with financial detail all the time and frequently make the same request to hundreds of clients every year. They speak to us less often. Don’t assume they understand the financial jargon. Be patient, and respect they are busy people too.
If there’s something I’ve missed or you have some suggestions about how to manage these, let us know.
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