Tax season is over, and it’s time to think about recommitting to customer service in our firms. If your tax season is like ours, it highlights our clients’ needs and what they would prefer from us. Tax season can also bring anxiety for the CPA and fear for the client–not a good combination.
Good customer service can help alleviate these concerns but for many firms, customer service has become an afterthought. For our firm, recommitting to customer service starts with designing customer service. We designed customer service with four steps in mind, connecting our internal team to the external client. Let’s look at what makes great customer service with the example of delivering a tax return to a client.
Project management manages the flow of information in a company, typically captured in software. It helps align the internal team’s responsibilities and the external client’s needs. In our example of delivering a tax return, our project manager starts with asking the question: “How would the client like to be asked for their tax documents?” Some clients prefer to be reminded via email, while others like to proactively visit the office. Can you use a modern tool like Sqrl to reach your client? How you choose to engage your client directly increases how a client feels about the customer service.
Managing the project is just the first step. A good project manager also “knows” everything about the work being produced as it flows through the company. With tax returns, knowledge management has historically been an internal process. Most clients send their tax documents to their advisor and may not hear from them until the return is processed. Any time you build “hidden” processes like processing a tax return, there is an opportunity to give the client a peek behind the curtain. That’s why communication is critical in well-designed customer service.
You can open up these hidden processes by communicating expectations to the client. In our tax return project, intentional communication is often an important but overlooked step. Most owners of firms don’t consistently communicate with clients during the tax review stage and a client can go sometimes 7 to 10 days without hearing from their tax advisor. If your firm has a project manager, have her communicate with the client throughout the process. It can help alleviate the client’s fear of wondering what is going on. Remember: It’s one thing to “know” something, but it’s quite another to communicate this knowledge to a customer directly.
Our final step is customer service, when we, as advisors, can show up and prove our value to the customer. This should come with excited delivery, reassurance and no surprises. Will you deliver the product face to face or digitally? What does the customer expect? In my experience, the delivery of tax returns to a customer is often done during a hurried, stressful time in a CPA’s life. How can we avoid letting that stress spill over into the delivery of the tax return? It’s important that we protect our client from poor delivery. This last step can make or break the promises we made when they initially gave us their paperwork.
Recommitting to customer service can sound like a lot of work and you’re right! Great customer service doesn’t happen by accident; it’s designed on purpose with the client in mind. We have a project manager in our firm, and we are going to be improving this part of our firm for years to come. It is the cornerstone of our attempt to be a high-value firm and offer life-changing services to our awesome clients. They deserve our best, and we took on recommitting to customer service for their benefit.