By Rich Walker, CPA, Director of IntuitAdvisor
A new year means new opportunities for accountants to grow their practice. Here are some words of wisdom that will help you succeed in 2002.
1. Focus on Great Service
It might sound simplistic, but superior customer service is the number one way to retain customers. Some suggestions for maintaining a great customer relationship are:
Be responsive. Let your clients know they're important. Return calls promptly and have the right tools available to answer client questions, including having your e-mail on screen or having the most updated version of your clients' software on hand.
Be flexible. Work with clients the way they want to work. Remote access services available in accounting software like QuickBooks Premier 2002 will help you access your clients' books from anywhere, at anytime, without having to make a house call.
Exceed expectations. Anticipate what your client might need before they ask and be ready to help. If they ask a question you can't answer, offer to find the answer or refer them to a person, site or service you trust.
2. Market Yourself Locally and Nationally
Providing great customer service will not only help you retain clients, it can also help attract new customers. Word-of-mouth is the most cost-effective way to grow a business.
Ask existing clients if they need additional services. Time-strapped business owners often don't think to ask for help with services like tax planning, cash-flow improvement or inventory management. Explain the value of these services and ask if they'd like you to start a project. Sites like www.IntuitAdvisor.com provide marketing toolkits that can help accountants sell their services better.
Ask clients to recommend your services to others. You won't get leads unless you ask. If clients refer someone to you, send a thank-you gift (a bottle of wine, tickets to a game) to let them know you appreciate their referral.
Network in your community. Being involved in your community will help you become a familiar, reliable resource. Volunteer your services at your local Rotary Club, religious organization, or get involved in your local Chamber of Commerce.
Use the Internet to expand your reach. The Internet can help deliver customized services to clients throughout the nation. Consider investing in your own Web site and use online marketplaces and communities, like Intuit's LiveAdvice centers, to find and assist new clients in a larger geographic area.
3. Provide Additional Business Services
Today, businesses are improving efficiencies by outsourcing day-to-day operations, like payroll and human resource management. By assisting with these services, accountants can concurrently deliver more value to their clients and help grow their business.
Offer to manage services or refer service offerings. Accountants are already a business' most trusted advisor, resulting in a low barrier to entry in taking on additional consulting engagements. There are many third-party services to help accountants manage these tasks, and some vendors even offer incentives to accountants who refer their services.
Become accredited and offer technical support to clients. Clients often need assistance setting up their accounting programs or learning how to use technology in general. Many vendors offer certification programs and special training courses for accountants.
Rich Walker, CPA, is Director of IntuitAdvisor and has more than 25 years experience as a certified public accountant and in technology marketing. He has spoken on QuickBooks and accounting technology at many state CPA conferences. For more information, please visit www.intuitadvisor.com.