Plan now to get the most out of client contact

As 2007 comes to a close, tax preparers are getting ready for the onslaught of tax season. Figuring out ways to maximize your time with clients now may pay off in a little more sanity down the road.

Clients will always be disorganized and April 15 will always come too quickly. That's a given. Consider these ideas on getting the most out of client interactions.

One common approach is to offer clients tax organizers. Think about ways to make it more valuable. Make it more than just an administrative chore by adding information on tax planning for the coming year, and perhaps suggest a time to meet to get a plan in place early.

Compile your questions into an organized list. Go over last year's tax return. This will remind you of any tax issues or situations that you need to talk about. Offer information to help them plan ahead.

GoSystem Tax, among other providers, offers online client organizers. Product manager Boyd Gackle told WebCPA that 3,500 online organizers were completed this past tax season. He figures that usage will grow as more tech-savvy professionals enter the workforce. Online tools can help CPAs save time with clients, not to mention save postage costs. Clients like them because they're easy to use and access, although paper organizers are always going to work better for certain clients.

Anther idea is to update your Web site. It can do more than tell visitors a little about your firm and its services. An online FAQ list can cut down on the time clients spend calling with basic questions and prevent a frustrated client from going elsewhere, Entrepreneur magazine advises. "Don't worry as much about fancy graphics as making sure visitors can get the information they need."

According to the CPA Technology Advisor, some tax prep firm Web sites also provide financial calculators, tax calendars, tips, tax and retirement planning information. Some of the Web site tools also make it easy for clients to check the status of their tax refunds or have secure client portals that allow secure document transfer.

On the other hand, those who become slaves to gadgets "are running reactive businesses and being reactive with their time," said Barry Izsak, president of Arranging It All, an Austin, Texas, firm that helps companies get organized. Keep it simple.

Most of all, keep your perspective. Tax preparers can feel like psychologists or marriage counselors some days, and it's always necessary to wear many hats. Above all, remember you're in the business of helping people with the best financial advice available.

Bloggers crew

Steve Knowles has spent 25 years in business and practice in the UK, but he also worked in the states and the years haven't dulled his way of seeing an alternative view to everyone else, and every day is a new adventure.

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Joel M. Ungar, CPA is a lifelong resident of the Detroit area and a graduate of The University of Michigan. He is a principal with Silberstein Ungar, PLLC, a Top 15 auditor of SEC public reporting companies.

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Allan Boress, CPA, with over 25 years as a practitioner and consultant to the accounting profession. Mr. Boress is the author of 12 published books in 6 different languages, including a best-seller, The "I-Hate-Selling" Book.

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Sandra Wiley, COO and Shareholder, is ranked by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her prominent role as an industry expert on HR and training as well as influence as a management and planning consultant. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant's Alliance. Sandra is a certified Kolbe™ trainer who advises firms on building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff.
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Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA, is the publisher of TaxMama.com, and author of the weekly syndicated Ask TaxMama column. She provides answers to tax questions from taxpayers and tax professionals worldwide.

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Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP is the CPA Programs Leader for Intacct Corporation responsible for leading the CPA/BPO Partners nationally.

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Brian Strahle is the owner of LEVERAGE SALT, LLC where he provides state and local tax technical services to accounting firms, law firms and tax research organizations across the United States. He also writes a weekly column in Tax Analysts State tax Notes entitled, "The SALT Effect." For more info, visit his website: www.leveragestateandlocaltax.com
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Rita Keller is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker, author, mentor and blogger. She has over 30 years hands-on experience in CPA firm management, marketing, technology and administrative operations.

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Stacy Kildal is the mom of two fantastic kids, an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Certified Enterprise Solutions ProAdvisor, Sleeter Group Certified Consultant, a nationally recognized member of the Intuit Trainer and Writer Network, and co-host of RadioFree QuickBooks.
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Michael Alter's blog specializes in providing practical advice to those who seek greater profitability and practice management tactics that enhance deeper client relationships.
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AccountingWEB is more than just a U.S. team of journalists and financial and technology experts - we have an international side, too! Members of our British team who publish AccountingWEB.co.uk share their ideas, insights, and perspectives from across the pond.

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