How Accountants Can Improve Communication Skillsby
Communication can make or break a firm’s success. When firms have poor communication policies or, worse, none at all, clients become frustrated and teams become stressed. On the other hand, effective communication ensures that everyone is on the same page and moving in the right direction.
Being able to communicate well is crucial in many areas of life, not least of all at work. But how do you improve accountant-client communication? We’re going to share a few pointers, but before we do, let’s look at why effective communication is so important.
It Promotes Transparency and Trust
Clear and consistent communication helps build trust with clients while promoting transparency. Effective communication ensures that clients know how and when you can meet their needs. Being upfront and honest about pricing or policy changes will also help you build and nurture relationships with your clients.
It Creates a Better Experience for Everyone
Communication creates a better experience for you, your staff, and your clients. With clear communication policies and procedures, you can ensure that:
- Everyone is on the same page
- Clients and staff know what is expected of them
Without proper communication, no one knows who is doing what or when tasks are completed. Deadlines get missed and information is miscommunicated. The resulting confusion will only frustrate clients and your team.
It Helps Build a More Streamlined Workflow
Communication can help streamline your workflow. In fact, research has shown that communication and collaboration can improve staff productivity by 20-25 percent.
When you have standard procedures in place, clients and staff will know how things work and what to expect.
Without communication procedures, it’s difficult for everyone to be on the same page and for tasks to be completed efficiently.
It Establishes Clear Boundaries
Along with improving efficiency and building trust, communication also helps you set boundaries and protect your team. Clients know what to expect from your firm and what will be expected of them. For example, communicating that your staff is only available during certain hours and days of the week can protect them from stress and burnout. Clients are made aware of your policies and should know not to expect a response from your team outside of these hours.
Establishing clear boundaries is essential in business. They can help ensure that your staff isn’t overworked or burdened with tasks or messages that eat up too much of their time.
Now that you know why communication is crucial, let’s look at how to improve client communication.
How to Improve Client Communication as an Accountant
Effective client communication isn’t accidental. Well-thought-out policies and procedures can help ensure that you, your staff, and your clients are always moving in step with one another.
Here’s how to improve client communication as an accountant.
Get It Right from the Start
Effective communication should start right away and when you’re first talking to prospects.
- Ask prospects questions
- Learn more about their needs
Understanding prospects and their needs can help you find the best way to serve them. Alternatively, you may find that a prospect isn’t the right choice for your firm, and their needs may be better served elsewhere.
Be Proactive About Communication
Taking a proactive approach to communication can help you avoid hiccups, confusion, and challenges later on down the road. Take this approach right from the start to ensure a better overall experience for your staff and clients.
Here are some pointers:
- When onboarding clients, make sure that they understand what it will be like working with your firm. How will meetings be held (virtually, in-person or a combination)? How will you communicate, and how often? How can they communicate with you if they need help or have questions?
- Be upfront, honest, and thorough when explaining your pricing. What are your fees? What’s included with your fee? What’s considered out of scope? When should clients pay and how? Pricing can often be an important consideration for clients, so be as detailed as possible to avoid miscommunication and difficulties.
- Make sure clients understand what’s expected of them. How often will they need to provide information? What deadlines should they be aware of?
Communicating these crucial details early on will help minimize delays, minimize errors and prevent confusion. The more convenient and stress-free your service is, the more likely clients will be to stick around. Your staff will also deal with fewer headaches and lower workloads.
Creating or improving your onboarding can help you gather these crucial details.
Improve Your Onboarding
Onboarding is an important step in establishing client relationships. The right onboarding process ensures that everyone knows what’s expected of them and how things will work as the relationship continues.
When onboarding new clients:
- Communicate how the engagement will work with your firm.
- Highlight deadlines. For example, tax documents may be due at a certain date in order for your firm to complete the tax returns.
- Introduce the team members to clients that they will be working with. Explain the role of team members as well as the client role.
- Make sure they have access to your client portal (if you’re using one) and provide training if necessary.
If you go through the onboarding process properly, it will also be easier to keep in touch. In fact, that’s our next point.
Keep in Touch
Effective communication also means being consistent and keeping in touch with clients.
- Deliver on your promises in your part of the engagement.
- Give quick and simple updates to keep clients in the loop.
Communication doesn’t have to be drawn out. Clients just want to be updated on the progress and completion of tasks.
Improving your accountant-client communication will create a better overall experience for all parties. For best results, get it right from the start. Make sure that everyone is always on the same page, knows what to expect, and understands what is expected of them. If you can achieve this goal, your firm will be well on its way to success.