When you think about auditors, the impression that forms in many people’s minds might be “they get in the way of my daily routine” or some other negative thought. I’d like to change that situation.
Starting at 16 years of age I worked in retail stores ensuring my clients had a good shopping experience. This preceded a career in public accounting, building on my client service abilities.
My career in auditing began in 2006 for a Big 4 firm. Our audit team’s presence was not always wanted in our client’s office, but I was determined to change their viewpoints about auditors. One of my proudest moments as an auditor is changing how one of my sports clients viewed us.
In the first year with the client, strict rules were emailed to us on how to conduct ourselves. Our communication with people on site were limited to only key contacts. Our team was moved to an open space in the middle of the finance area, but still only a small amount of small talk was allowed to anyone on our team.
To break the mold, attempts to make small talk when possible were made especially to the CEO of the organization. Bringing treats for the finance group to snack on also counted in my favor (especially when they were the CEO’s favorite cookies).
More importantly, making sure we gave the Controller timely status updates, and kept questions to a minimum by answering my staff’s questions instead of them going to the client made quite an impact.
When I did meet with the Controller to go over status and questions, I would talk about what’s going on in the league and team based on media, his interests or what he did on the weekend. You don’t want the client to think you are only there to drill them with questions and get what you need.
Our success in creating a better relationship with the client was confirmed when the CEO showed me her secret stash of ice cream, and we got 5 out of 5 on a survey the client took for the services we provided.
Now I work for Xero. Building relationships is key whether in retail, public accounting or in building relationships with Xero Partners. Drawing from my life experience here is my R-Factor approach for when dealing with clients.
Relate – Whether it’s relating to a pain point, find a commonality, find a way to relate to your client. Relating to your clients give them a level of comfort with you and fosters the beginning of building trust with them.
Respond – Always, always respond to your clients in a timely manner. They will appreciate it and more importantly, it shows you value their time.
Respect – It’s the good old saying; treat others the way you want to be treated. Respect your clients and their time and you will continue to gain their trust.
Responsible – Take responsibility for your actions and be responsible enough to meet deadlines. If you weren’t responsible enough to reply to your client in a timely manner or to meet a deadline, then be responsible enough to recognize your mistake. They will appreciate your honesty and transparency.
Reasonable – Do not over-promise to your clients. Set practical deadlines that you know you can meet.
Recommended – By building a strong relationship with your clients, they will retain your services, and possibly recommend you to the next person.
There are many accountants and bookkeepers that provide the same services, and finding a way to set yourself apart will help your business thrive. Building strong client relationships will set you apart.
People like to feel comfortable, and having a strong relationship with your clients will keep them around in the long run. It makes for more open and transparent lines of communication because the trust will be there. As you build this relationship it will give you more opportunities to provide more value to your clients.