How Has COVID Impacted Your Relationships With Your Clients?

As the accountant or bookkeeper, you have likely seen a change in your own financials resulting from the pandemic. During the past several months, I have noticed a churn in clients.

Sep 25th 2020
CEO Accounting Lifeline
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Heather Satterley, owner of Satterley Training & Consulting LLC, co-authored this article.

As a result of the impact to our economy, there is increased need for forensic financial analysis and advisory services to help clients construct and implement an innovative and sustainable response.

Some clients can no longer afford my services while others seek me out looking for additional financial assistance. The clients reaching out for help are in a unique situation in which they can afford to leverage further assistance.

Others are grasping for the hope that we can provide a strategy that can turn their business around or at least get them through these difficult times. Either example is an opportunity for a stronger connection.

Let me pull back the curtains and reveal what I am experiencing in my own firm. We are experiencing a drop off of our normal routine month-to-month clientele. They either cannot afford us, or they have gone out of business.

On the other hand, new prospective clients seek me out to save or leverage their financial wellbeing. In some situations, the brick and mortar locations are closing and moving to a virtual environment, which is a prime opportunity for an outsourced accounting advisor.

Cash flow planning and budgeting have become paramount to businesses to which I can relate. Due to the turnover of clients within my own firm, I have budgeted to ensure staffing stability. All of these experiences make me empathetic to other business owners. I have realized a greater sense of “we’re all in this together.”

The influx of new businesses seeking services is, in part, due to the relationships I already have with clients. Since I began to include advisory service, clients turn to me for advice and assistance beyond bookkeeping.

We are seeing an emerging opportunity with our clients looking for advice beyond payroll and compliance work. Clients are asking for immediate understanding and options to keep their doors open. Tax prep isn’t even a concern to them right now. Instead, they are thinking more about short term goals to keep their business solvent.

By assisting these new and existing clients, I am building and strengthening my relationships, resulting in referrals. By achieving successful moments with my clients, the word is out that our firm is willing and able to help in this time of crisis. We have also started to build a reputation as the go-to for resources specific to the COVID crisis. 

Where Do We Go From Here?

The pandemic isn’t over yet. Regardless of what happens between now and the end of the year, this economic reality will take some time to recover. There is no better time than now to embrace advisory services! The routine accountant and bookkeeper is an expense, while the advisor is a valued investment.

How Can We Continue to Grow Our Existing Relationships?

Let your clients know that you care and are available to them. Our firm started early in the pandemic by sending emails to our clients with information about funding options. Those resources included technology they could use to adapt to a virtual work environment and let them know that we were ready to help.

As the months rolled on, we continued to communicate regularly and be a stable resource to our clients.  Clients whose existing businesses do not survive will likely rise again in the coming months and years with new ventures, and they will remember the help and guidance you provided to them.

How Can We Grow Our Firms During the Pandemic?

Rethink your firm’s mission. The world has changed, and so too must your firm. Artificial intelligence and machine learning have made it possible to utilize various tools for analytics. Being able to understand the data is just as or more important as being able to input data. 

Use the knowledge and experiences you’ve had in your own life and firm and share it with your community. Consider partnering with organizations like the SBA or local Chamber of Commerce to provide articles, webinars, or even virtual roundtables to the public. This can help you establish yourself and your firm as knowledgeable and empathic, and spread awareness about your firm and the services you provide.

Are You Value Pricing Additional COVID-Related Services?

This is a great question. Many firms have decided to bundle these in while others feel like these are outside of the traditional subscription. No matter what you choose to do, be careful not to cheat yourself by undercharging.

Just as your client’s businesses are trying to remain solvent and overcome a difficult business cycle, so too is your firm. In times of crisis, the traditional mantra has been to do more with less. I encourage you to maintain this is an opportunity to “do more with more.”

Embrace the change. There is currently a welcoming environment for advisory services, including budgeting, forecasting, investing, and planning. I encourage my accounting friends to take heart and realize this is an opportunity for growth.

Remember, change takes energy. It’s just as important to walk the dog and get away from your computer, as is it to read up on the ever-changing legislation. As financial first responders, it's easy to become exhausted and overextended. Make sure to kick back with the family, relax by binge-watching TV and get enough rest.

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