Think about the bread and butter of most CPA firms: prepping financial statements, audit and tax work, and general accounting services. Increasingly we are being told that commoditization is occurring in our industry. Some of this is driven by technology as more processes become automated. Some of this is our own fault as we fail to effectively differentiate for our clients exactly what we do. If this doesn’t change, we are in a race to the bottom. The only tool available tool is lowering our prices.
In his book, The Tom Peters Seminar: Crazy Times Call For Crazy Organizations, the author tells the following story about a cab driver:
“Transformation. Breaking the mold. Anything—ANYTHING—can be made special. Author Harvey Mackay tells about a cab ride from Manhattan out to La Guardia Airport: First, this driver gave me a paper that said, “Hi, my name is Walter. I’m your driver. I’m going to get you there safely, on time, in a courteous fashion.” A mission statement from a cab driver! Then he holds up a New York Times and a USA Today and asks would I like them? So I took them. We haven’t even moved yet. He then offers a nice little fruit basket with snack foods. Next he asks, “Would you prefer hard rock or classical music?” (This cab driver makes an above-average amount per year in tips.)”
As you think about fighting back against commoditization and differentiating your firm, this cab driver offers a few valuable ideas:
- Connecting with your client: Most cab drivers ask you where you are going and, after taking you to your destination, tells you how much the ride costs. That’s it. The cab driver in our story makes a real attempt to connect with the rider. Personal connections are important – do you have them with your clients?
- Customization: Our cabbie customizes the ride for his customers by offering reading material, food and a choice of music. Are the forms, documents, and other communication tools in your practice generic – or are you putting your stamp on them? Do you have customized methodologies that help highlight the unique expertise and value of your firm?
Commoditization is a choice. You can allow yourself and your firm to be boxed up with everyone else. Or you can stand out.