If you want to read more from Rita Keller, check out her "Possibilities For CPA Firm Management" archive.
CPAs working in public practice tell me all the time..... "We are different!" They go on to relate how they do this different and how they do that different. They truly believe they are different.
When I inquire as to exactly how they are different from their competitors most of them say",It's because of our client service." They continue to describe how they are responsive, return phone calls quickly and are available to their clients.
They are reacting to client requests and questions. Notice I said REACTING. Most CPAs will honestly disclose, they are more reactive than PROACTIVE.
Here's my personal story from a visit to a Ritz Carlton Hotel. Eddie, the bellman/valet guy (young, smiling gentleman), opened the door to my taxi and welcomed me inquiring as to my name. As he walked me to the registration desk he asked where I was from. When I said Dayton, Ohio he remarked",I attended UD!" (University of Dayton). As we arrived at the desk he introduced the gentleman at the desk to me",This is Ms. Keller, she's ready to check in."
During my stay, at both hotel restaurants (lunch & dinner), so many people asked... Can I help you? May I be of assistance? Is there anything you need? At both restaurants they inquired",Are you staying with us?" Last name? and then from that point forward everyone in the restaurant(s) called me by name",Ms. Keller." After dinner when I departed the restaurant a different maitre d' was on duty and said",Good night, Ms. Keller."
People enjoy being called by name and they hate it if their name is mispronounced or misspelled. Have you every misspelled a client name on a email, letter, tax organizer or other paper mailing? It's a huge faux pas! Even worse, has your firm ever mailed something to a deceased client? The relatives sure hate that one!
The Ritz Carlton has systems. They teach them and they practice them. The next day as I was leaving the hotel Eddie greeted me again and immediately said",Did you enjoy your stay, Ms. Keller? Are you heading back to Dayton? Why don't you use our car, it's just slightly more than a taxi and much more comfortable?"
I couldn't keep track of how many people (employees) asked me during my 30-hour visit if they could help me, assist me, do anything for me.
What's it like at your firm? How often do you ask your clients if you can help them in any way? How often do your employees, during client interactions, use the client's name and inquire if they can assist or if the client has any questions? Have you trained your people to introduce themselves to visitors waiting in the lobby, to simply be friendly?
Practice civility. It will go a long way with your clients and employees.