The expectations that your clients (and prospects) have about communication with their accountant are that you will be available all the time.
The days of autoresponders that promise a reply within 5 working days are so far gone as to be laughable. Even a reply within 24 hours is considered slow.
It’s not exclusive to accountancy services: your buyer expects near-instant communication from anyone they do business with.
Instant communication is critical for your clients
When it comes to accountancy services, instant communication is critical because of the nature of the work, and the queries your clients or prospects will have.
Looking for funding and filling in a grant form? Signing a new business deal with a client in a foreign country? Looking into exporting? New office premises became available?
Whatever the issue, your client needs to know the financial element, and questions abound.
The instant communication requirement reflects on the attitude of the modern business owner.
Everything is done in a hurry, left to the last minute, cutting close to the deadline.
Instant communication is critical for your prospects
For prospects, the more available you are, the more likely it is that they will do business with you, because your responsiveness during the sales process gives them an indication of how the business relationship will be.
The issues are often even more urgent. Their current accountant let them down – again. Or isn’t an expert in their preferred accounting system. Or cost them thousands in fines. Or retired.
The more communication methods available to your prospects, the greater their chances of connecting with you fast – before they hear back from another accountant.
Let’s face it: competition is extremely high amongst accountants. In the main this is a good thing, and there’s enough business to go around: but I continue to daily hear stories from business owners about how they tried to get in touch with an accountant and gave up because they didn’t hear back within a day (or two at the most).
Which communication method will help you be available?
Here are a few ways you can ensure that you are available, and using the communication methods your clients and prospects prefer:
- Live chat: The firms using live chat connect with their prospects instantly. That’s far better than the prospect waiting 24-48 hours for an email reply, or a returned phone call at a time that doesn’t suit them.
Interestingly, some of our firms are finding that live chat is also used by clients for customer service. When you know you can get in touch with your accountant straight away, you’re more likely to come to them with any question.
- Support desk: Using a support system such as Zendesk or Zoho means that emails from clients are not only sent to one team member, or lost in transition, or filed on one computer. You can track every enquiry, from very minor to the urgent and critical.
- Forum: Having a client-only forum is not only useful for allowing you to respond quickly: it’s also an excellent selling point for prospects. Consider using a private Facebook group, Slack, or a similar app.
- Text or out-of-hours phone: Some firms have a mobile number that is manned by a different team member each day, or week, so that clients always have a way to get in touch, even out of hours or on weekends. In a time when we do business 24-7, the typical office hours could really hold you back.
Oh, and if anyone out there still has a “lunch hour” when the office is shut and phones aren’t answered, end that habit immediately. From personal experience I can tell you how frustrating that is – and more importantly, it’s old school. Find a way for that phone to be answered.
It’s not primarily about your efficiency, but your clients’ needs
Most importantly, keep your clients’ needs and wishes in mind. If they all use Facebook, then you need to as well. If they prefer another tool, find out what that is and get to know it.
Remember this is not about what’s easiest for you and your team: it’s about responding to what makes your clients’ lives easier. That will keep the relationship alive: and why would they go anywhere else?