The modern-day accountants also provide advisory services besides offering traditional services including taxation, compilation, audit, etc that are statutory or regulatory in nature.
These traditional services focus on the preparation and interpretation of financial data as per the accounting standards and rules. However, the advisory services provide support to the organizations in terms of succession advice, wealth management, acquisitions, cash flow planning, payroll, review of systems, etc. These services are highly tailored and customized in nature as per the needs and requirements of the client’s businesses.
In other words, accountants advise their clients not only for compliance but also to steer the strategic as well as the operational aspect of the client’s business.
Due to the changing nature of the services offered by accounting professionals in modern-day, the role of trust, relationships, and professional ethics for business advice becomes all the more important.
This article talks about the various ways in which accounting firms can build trust with their clients.
Build on Work-Related and Personal Factors
Trust builds through ongoing relationships over time when two parties understand the mutual needs, competencies as well as assist in reducing the probable uncertainties.
Trust is one of the major factors responsible for reducing transaction costs and also provides an accounting practice a competitive advantage. Therefore, accounting professionals can establish trust by focussing on work-related factors such as competency, integrity, objectivity, independence, and confidentiality, and personal factors such as empathy.
Competency or ability is defined as the extent to which clients understand that the accounting professionals whom they are working with have the requisite skills and knowledge to provide accounting advisory.
In addition to this, the clients also take services from accounting professionals only when they believe that such professionals are reliable and prompt in delivering advice in a timely manner.
Integrity means the degree to which clients believe that the accounting firms whom they are taking services from offer services by following proper code of ethics and principles.
Further, objectivity means the extent to which the clients perceive that the judgment of the accounting professionals is unbiased and without conflict of interest.
While confidentiality means that clients can trust the accounting professionals to maintain the privacy of data that they share with them.
And finally, empathy is the degree to which clients believe that the accounting professionals will understand and show care and concern regarding their business and personal needs. That is, the accounting professionals will work to the best of clients’ interests.
However, the accounting firms would be able to build on these attributes over a period of time since clients get a good understanding of the way in which accounting professionals work and offer services.
Create Value for Money
Businesses shy away from taking services from accountants unless they perceive that the services offered by such accounting professionals provide value for money.
Traditional compliance services such as audit, taxation, etc were considered beneficial in terms of cost, and business owners were quite satisfied in terms of the value derived from spending costs on such traditional services.
However, the diversified services offered by accountants in the modern era like succession planning, cash flow planning, payroll, corporate finance, wealth management, and investments, etc act as a big obstacle for clients to consider these services to be cost-beneficial.
Thus, accountants need to strengthen both their areas of strengths and weaknesses. In addition to this, they need to undertake SWOT analysis which will help them to understand how they are performing as compared to the competitors, identify opportunities to create value, and what strategies would help them create this value.
In addition to this, accountants need to concentrate on providing high-quality services when it comes to both traditional and other diversified services.
They should not try to sell everything, rather, find their niche and try to create value in that area.
Apart from this, accounting firms should not forget to market their knowledge and expertise through blog posts, contributing articles for other media platforms, holding seminars, etc.
Communicate Authentically and Frequently
Good communication is the very foundation for a client relationship to grow and build trust. The accounting firms need to have a system in place that helps them to connect with their clients directly one on one.
The accounting professional need to understand that communication is not just about providing clients with financial information and analysis. Rather, it is also about listening to the concerns of the clients.
The more clients believe that your accounting firm is concerned about the financial health of their business, the more trust they will have to seek your guidance.
Once the accounting firms advise the clients after reviewing their financials for the very first time, they should act proactively and plan for the next review of their financial statements. This will make the clients feel more secured as they appreciate your initiative.
Besides this, the accounting professionals should also plan for quarterly reviews and should always be in search of upselling and cross-selling opportunities. In addition to this, accounting firms should send newsletters via email to inform their clients about important statutory updates.
However, they should ensure that they do not overwhelm their clients by sending them too many emails and newsletters. Furthermore, they have to ensure that the emails are informative and are not sounding like a sales pitch.
Provide Continuous Training to Your Clients
Whenever clients face any sort of challenge and ask for the advice, never lose an opportunity to showcase your expertise.
Make every effort to explain to your clients the technicality behind the challenge faced by him as it helps your clients to understand what is happening at the backdrop.
It also helps them to understand the context of the work that you as an accounting professional need to perform in order to resolve the problem.
Such sharing of expertise works in favor of your accounting form as clients would have a clear picture regarding the financial discussions as well as decisions. Furthermore, they would value your services more and accountants would get an opportunity to hold more meaningful conversations with them regarding their business.
The more they understand the dynamics of the technicalities of an underlying challenge, the more they are able to trust your opinions and suggestions. But, a key factor that plays a great role is the extent to which your accounting firm is transparent.
Accountants need to understand that their clients understand the compliance rules, financial terms as well as other related processes. Thus, the accounting firm should always make an effort to train their clients either face to face or via emails in order to build a social rapport as well as win their trust.