New startups and small businesses are usually very good at knowing who their customer base is and knowing exactly what they want. Having this knowledge is key to the continuing success of their enterprise – 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 SMEs expect from their accountant:
1. Get to know your clients better
Time and technology have moved on, but there are still the hardcore group of clientele that 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 that you can prevent this paperwork load 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 that they are getting a higher level of service and it would help you to 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 quite a long time when replying to emails and returning phone calls.
No matter how small they are, your clients want to feel like one that is 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 that you are taking an active interest in their business.
Regularly review your customers’ financial position and see if there is any way in which you can help either develop their business, or make savings in areas like tax and overheads.
4. Sharpen your tech skills
Most accountants have quite a diverse client base, and more businesses – new and established – are becoming more technology focused. SMEs 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 you to do this.
5. Offer more value-added services
It’s not enough these days for an accountant to offer just accountancy services. To many, you are not simply just the person who does the payroll, VAT and returns; you are 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.