Be nice to them.
Yes, it’s really that simple but it’s shocking how many accounting firms are negative or even hostile to their clients without being aware of it. To illustrate, here is an excerpt of tax submission instructions from a recently published client letter. Capitalization is from the original.
“Due to the turnaround time necessary for in-house procedures and computer operations, it is vital to send in your tax information EARLY. We cannot promise to complete returns that are sent to us in April. PLEASE send only complete information—sending in information bit by bit will incur extra charges.
PLEASE DO NOT SEND PERSONAL TAX INFO IN THE SAME PACKAGE AS ANY PARTNERSHIP, LLC, OR CORPORATE INFORMATION.”
There are two ways to read this, as the long suffering accountant who has to deal with shoeboxes and tote bags of paper, mostly irrelevant, dropped off on April 7 by a frantic client with a bank officer breathing down their neck. Oh yeah, we all know how that feels.
But, since this post is about clients and what makes them happy, let’s look at it from their side.
• First, all those capitals are shouting do this and do that. Capitalizing the word “please” doesn’t make it nicer.
• Then, when clients read the copy, they find that it’s all about the accountants, their schedule and what they want to make their life easier. There’s not one scrap that clients care about or that takes a burden off of them.
• Last, there’s the comment about complete information and extra charges. Nothing puts a client on edge like the possibility of a surprise bill.
Let’s try a rewrite:
“To speed the preparation and processing of your tax return, please send your information as early as possible. We strive to prepare returns quickly and accurately, but missing information will result in longer preparation times and more time and effort for all.
With your information in house by the end of March, we can complete your returns by the due date. To ensure that important information is properly included in all your returns, please separate personal tax information from business items.”
Doesn’t that sound better to your client? It emphasizes the benefits to the client of speedy tax preparation, accuracy and less effort on their part by following a few friendly suggestions. In short, it’s about the client and their needs as well as communicating professionalism and quality service from your firm. Being nice to your clients is good business; after all, they’re the ones writing the checks.
If you want your communications to be more client friendly, contact me for a makeover.