When a client goes to an accountant, he or she is trusting that professional with potentially sensitive financial information. If a client seeks advice from the accountant, that advice could have a substantial positive or negative affect on the client’s finances. Clients need to be able to trust their accountants, which is why the relationship between accounting professionals and their clients is so important.
Client Relationships Matter
With the many forms of accounting computer software now available to the general public, it’s easier than ever for individuals to prepare their own income taxes or for business owners to keep track of their own financial information. Both individuals and business owners need more from an accountant than simply the ability to file a tax return or prepare basic financial statements. They need advice and quality, timely service from a professional they trust.
In fact, the trust between an accountant and a client is so important that the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) considered accountants to have an almost fiduciary role in regard to clients. This means that accountants must act in the best interests of their client, displaying characteristics such as integrity and objectivity. While accountants aren’t always considered to hold fiduciary roles in regards to their clients, there have been legal precedents in which accountants have held roles deemed to be fiduciary when consulting on business matters or helping clients prepare taxes or manage assets, the AICPA reported. In some jurisdictions, there is another factor to the accountant-client relationship: accountant-client privilege.
Client relationships matter to accountants, too, especially for accountants who are self-employed. If clients leave an accountant or accounting firm, there is less work to be done and less revenue coming into the company. Ultimately, losing clients could result in layoffs or firm closures. The accountant-client relationship is so important that all parties benefit from a good working relationship.
Creating and Maintaining Good Client Relationships
It takes work to create and maintain a good accountant-client relationship based on trust. When accounting firms lose clients, they are often tempted to blame factors like costs and fees or the speed of the service. In reality, clients are going to have to deal with fees and the time necessary to complete the work at any accounting firm. Often, the real problems lie in deficits within the accountant-client relationship, including communication issues. The key to building good client relationships and keeping clients happy is to not only provide prompt and quality service at an affordable rate, but also to communicate openly with clients and educate them in a friendly manner.
While the curriculum of your bachelor’s or master’s in accounting degree program will cover much of the information you will need to succeed at accounting, keep in mind that the communication and interpersonal skills necessary for building developing client relationships are important, too. You can develop these skills through courses within and outside of your major, through extracurricular activities, and through work and internship opportunities.