Most CPA firms want to develop deep, trusted advisor relationships with their clients. The benefits are obvious as deeper relationships mean less client churn and more up-sell opportunities.
The hard truth is, despite best efforts and intentions, many firms fall short of this goal. The work comes in and the work goes out. There is little opportunity to engage with the client beyond the specific job at hand.
Part of the problem is many clients view their work from a transactional perspective. They need their taxes done or an audit to be performed. When tax time rolls around they are not thinking of their CPA as a trusted advisor. They are more likely thinking how to make the process as painless as possible.
However, some of the blame rests with CPA firms that treat their clients more like jobs rather than people. This is not intentional. During the busy season we are inundated with work so we line up what needs to be done and try to knock it out as best we can. There is little time or opportunity to do anything else.
Does this mean it’s impossible to become a trusted advisor? Clearly no – but you may need to start thinking about it differently. Here are a few ideas:
- Don’t forget your clients are people – and so are you. We tend to fall into our job roles easily – and think about our clients the same way. However, we are all people first. The best way to connect with someone is to treat him or her as a person. You’ll be surprised how quickly they stop becoming a job and start becoming valued relationship.
- Building trust is not easy. It begins when you connect with the client on a personal level and then clearly demonstrate your willingness to listen and understand their point of view. That’s when a client will begin to listen to your advice.
- Stop looking in the mirror. We all tend to view our firms through our own lens – what we do, who we do it for, how we do it. We need to start looking at ourselves through the lens of our clients. What’s it like to be a client of our firm? Walking in the shoes of a client will provide valuable insight into how to better manage relationships.