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The rising importance of relationships in the accounting industry

Nov 4, 2020 | Advisors

Building and maintaining strong and lasting client relationships in the accounting and advisor industry has always been of high importance. The magnitude of this importance, however, has only grown as automation software, a global crisis and new ways of doing business have permeated the industry.

Now, in a unique time of stress, potential cashflow loss and business uncertainty, mastering client relationships is even more critical.

The importance of fostering excellent relations

When a client is purchasing property, managing a business, formulating a new business plan or arranging their retirement, it’s imperative the level of trust in their advisor is extremely high.

There is seldom anything more important to your client than financial security and knowing they’ve placed their trust in the right hands.

Poor communication, no personal touch and a lack of trust could not only lead to poor outcomes for your client, but it could also spell serious trouble for your practice if you lose a valuable client.

When advisors take a less transactional role, due to digital processes, increased self-service options and software advancements, the connections you form will be the difference between client success or loss.

COVID-19 changed the game

It’s no secret that businesses across the country have been recently confronted with unprecedented levels of strain.

SMEs are currently finding ways to cope with a range of new factors induced by this pandemic and even the most robust and experienced businesses will have the need for fresh advice. This is where firms can excel.

ABS Head of Industry Statistics, John Shepherd spoke of the impact on Australian businesses in August 2020:

“41 per cent of businesses reported that revenue had fallen over the last month and 22 per cent had an increase in operating expenses.

“Almost a quarter of businesses (23 per cent) reported they had decreased or cancelled their actual or planned capital expenditure compared to three months earlier.

Shepherd also noted that, “businesses reported that their decisions related to expenditure on capital were significantly influenced by uncertainty about the future state of the economy (59 per cent), and future expected customer demand for their products or services (40 per cent).”

As we can see, the need for trusted advice is at an all-time high in the business community.

Your clients could be potentially dealing with:

  • closures
  • cashflow issues
  • rapid business model changes
  • government assistance packages
  • staff changes
  • shifting taxation responsibilities (and opportunities)
  • changes to capital expenditure
  • an environment of financial uncertainty and doubt

Dealing with these issues sits squarely in an accounting firm’s domain. Current and prospective clients need you more than ever and the best course of action is to foster relationships built on trust, communication, best practice and dependability.

One stop shop

To remain relevant and increase the value of a firm’s connection with a client, it’s even more imperative to become a multidisciplinary practice, with a wide range of services under one roof.

If a client can come to you for superannuation concerns, general accounting, property advice, business model reviews and forecasting services, the value of your relationship and the importance of your services balloons.

If you manage relationships carefully, you’ll be the only point of contact your client will ever need, resulting in repeat business and natural word-of-mouth marketing.

Proactive ways to build better client relationships

Like any good relationship, client relations are built on empathy, communication and dependability. To ensure you’re building the strongest relationships possible, try to pay attention to the following.

Set a framework for communication

You should be the one laying down a communication framework.

Ensure your client is abundantly aware of the best methods of contacting you. Better yet, ask and record the preferred methods of your clients. Meet them where they’re comfortable and make sure they know that there’s no such thing as a ‘stupid question’.

Be casual, contactable, and proactively reach out if you haven’t heard from your client for a while.

Make sure you never reply late to a message, miss important calls or respond in an unsatisfactory or cursory manner.

Most of all, make sure you’re a good listener. People need to know their concerns and ideas are being taken seriously and, of course, the better you listen and empathise, the better your insights and advice will be.

Be a source of knowledge

Clients want to know you’re the expert they need. Ensure you’re creating content for your website and social media (such as blogs or videos) that shows you have your finger on the pulse.

You need to be a thought leader to develop trust and add value to a client. For example, if a new government support package or budget measure comes into play, write a think piece and share it with your clients.

Add personal touches and exceed expectations

You need to be a person, even a friend, not just a suit. You don’t form relationships with an email address or a set of forms – you need to get personal.

Reach out with thoughtful and personalised messages and tips that are relevant to their specific situation, have relaxed lunch meetings instead of impersonal phone sessions, and point your client at great sources of information.

Above all else – under promise and overdeliver. Great relationships are based on not only avoiding disappointment but creating positive surprise. Honesty and excellent service delivery are key.

To find out more about APS software, visit www.aps-software.com.

APS is a division of Reckon, an ASX listed company. We develop the software used by the best Accounting Firms in Australia and New Zealand to run their business’ and advise their clients.