As an aspiring accountant, your work won’t only revolve around numbers. Sure, you’ll spend much of your day preparing and generating financial statements and reports, but you’re creating those documents for people. Retaining clients is essential for success for both self-employed accounting professionals and the accountants who work on-staff at a firm. There are multiple ways accountants can provide value to keep their clients happy and coming back, including by building a strong professional relationship with them and providing other services that their clients want and need.
Developing Strong Accountant-Client Relationships
The accountant-client relationship is very important. It’s the reason your clients will keep coming back to you, rather than doing business with one of your competitors or using a software program to do their taxes themselves. In a good accountant-client relationship, your client will trust you and come to you for advice to meet personal financial goals or cut costs and eliminate waste in business endeavors.
How do you develop and grow strong professional relationships with your accounting clients? Becoming a skilled communicator is one way to cultivate professional relationships. Learn to listen well to what your client says so that you can understand, and solve, problems. Be willing and able to explain concepts in layperson’s terms so that you can educate a client about their financial situation and options. Make yourself friendly and approachable, so your clients feel comfortable discussing their goals and concerns with you. Take the initiative to prepare for meetings with your clients in advance, and by asking them about their goals and how you can help.
Besides building strong relationships with existing clients, many accounting professionals are getting into financial services to retain clients and attract new business. By offering additional services that their clients are looking for, these accountants can become more involved in their clients’ lives and financial plans. This makes clients less likely to leave and more likely to see their accountant as a trusted advisor, someone to turn to for guidance. They can also attract new clients who are primarily interested in the new services and market their accounting skills to these newcomers.
So far, the trend of breaking into the financial services business has proven to be an effective strategy for many accounting firms. About 65 percent of accountants who had begun offering financial planning services found that the business move “expanded the scope of services and engagement with their clients,” according to the Journal of Accountancy. More than half of the firms also felt that clients appreciated their services more after they expanded into financial services, and nearly 80 percent saw an increase in profits.
Whether you’re shooting for a staff accountant role at an established accounting firm or aspiring to own and manage your own firm, knowing how to retain clients will be as essential to success as knowing how to prepare statements. With the right skills, attitude and plan, you can keep clients returning throughout your professional life.