Small businesses are usually very good at knowing who their customer base is and what they want. This knowledge is key to their success – learn what your customer wants and make sure you give it to them.
Can accountants learn from this business philosophy? It’s one thing to think you know what services your clients need, but ask them directly and you might be surprised by some of the answers. Do you regularly ask your clients for feedback?
Here are five of the most common things small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) expect from their accountant:
1. Get to know your clients better
While time and technology have moved on, there are still clients who turn up with a shoebox full of invoices, receipts, and statements once a year. Wouldn’t you like to change this habit? Scheduling more regular meetings, or suggesting a cloud-based solution where you can work with your clients in real time, means you can prevent this paperwork building up, and the client would certainly appreciate more frequent insights into their business.
Running a small business can be hard work and time consuming, so why not take the trouble to visit your client at their premises? The client would feel they’re getting a higher level of service and it would help you understand their business better.
2. Prompt replies
This is another area in which accountants can learn from their clients. Small businesses are usually quite swift and agile when dealing with inquiries. A common complaint from some business owners is that their accountant can take a long time when replying to emails and returning phone calls.
No matter how small they are, your clients want to feel like they are valued, and timely communication is important to them.
3. Be proactive
Forget the old adage only give advice when it’s asked for – give it anyway! Your client won’t be offended. The vast majority will be pleased you’re taking an active interest in their business.
Regularly review your customers’ financial position and see if there’s a way you can help develop their business, or make savings in areas like tax and overheads.
4. Sharpen your tech skills
SMEs are becoming increasingly technology focused, and they expect their accountant to keep up. Brushing up your digital know-how will not only improve your own business efficiency, but enable you to collaborate with clients on an even keel.
Clients see you as an expert, and you owe it to them to keep your skillset up to date. Taking short courses either locally or online and attending webinars will help.
5. Offer more value-added servicesIt’s not enough these days for an accountant to offer only accounting services. To many of your clients, you’re not only the person who takes care of their payroll and tax, but also their advisor, tutor, and mentor.
Small business owners don’t have the time to shop around for different areas of business advice; they often ask the accountant for help in areas such as employment law and marketing. You don’t need to be an expert on everything, but referring client enquiries to recognised sources and bodies can help them enormously.