Accountants must improve customer service skills or risk losing clients

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Accountants are being urged to develop new skills to help them build trust and rapport with clients - or face potentially drastic consequences.

Firms are facing one of their toughest fights yet, against the backdrop of a challenging economy, and it is crucial they improve their customer service skills or risk losing clients.

Over the last 20 years I've worked with many accountants in helping them gain and retain clients. During this time I have noticed a pattern which is common in almost all cases. It costs them a fortune in new business opportunities they miss and, more importantly, they lose long-term clients who slip away through the back door and are serviced by a competitor.

Usually this has nothing to do with their lack of knowledge or professional service. It is mainly their lack of ability to communicate effectively on a one-to-one basis and understand the needs of clients. This is a tough one to swallow if you are an accountant reading this, but please be aware, when and where do many professionals learn these skills? Not at university, that's for sure.

So you are a fully qualified chartered accountant and you are being asked to sell accountancy and go to networking meetings to meet and greet. But, that's not what you signed up for. It's no surprise that it can be frustrating and soul destroying in this current climate to look for that next client.

Seven top tips for building rapport

I've put together these seven action areas to help you in the immediate future so that you can look forward to gaining more clients, more referrals, and more bottom-line profits:

  1. Discover the soft skills of developing rapport, the key to building trust so your clients talk openly to you and you become their trusted advisor.
  2. Accountants spend a lot of time giving great information away at networking meetings or pitches which goes over the heads of many potential clients. Let your clients tell stories of how you saved them money, or helped them to develop their business to the next level. Client testimonials, and even them speaking at an event for two minutes, is worth more than two hours of information, most of which is not needed.
  3. Always look at the long term, not short term, with clients. Maybe give them a short term deal to get a chance to show them how good you are.
  4. Learn to sell then give them a chance to buy. Listen!
  5. Accountants need to trust themselves more when it comes to getting new business. Many outsource leads or get other people to try and close deals. However, if you learn the skills you have them for life.
  6. Accountants sometimes win deals on price. Be warned: If you win a deal on price a client may also leave you on price. We call these transactional sales. Look for relational sales where you are the trusted advisor.
  7. Charge more. When was the last time you tested your prices? If people do not question the price, are you underselling your service? A lot of accountants could give a better service if they charged more and everyone wins.

About the author:

Bernie DeSouza is one of the UK's leading business coaches and runs The Global Coaching Company. He can be reached by e-mail at

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