Customer Service Tips - Principles of Effective Client Communication

September 19, 2006

Communicating effectively with clients provides a CPA firm with a host of invaluable benefits. First, it reduces misunderstandings, which are often the result of unclear communication, either written or verbal. Effective communication also helps to keep problems that may occur from spinning out of control. And effective communication creates opportunities for firm improvement and growth by providing an opportunity to see the firm and oneself through the eyes of clients. This client's eye view allows the firm to identify its own strengths and weaknesses more clearly and to understand the ways in which the firm could better serve its clients.

Active Listening

To build and maintain long-term relationships with clients, be sure to completely understand their views, concerns and expectations. Reassure clients that you understand what they are saying by paraphrasing their concerns back to them. Only after you are certain you have a complete grasp of what the client wants, should you attempt to explain how you might help the client achieve his or her goals.

Establishing Clear Expectations

Make certain that everyone walks away from a meeting or phone call with the same expectations of what will follow. Be sure to provide a verbal recap at the end of a call or conversation, confirming who will do what and when. For more lengthy or important discussions, provide the client with a brief conference report, highlighting key points and the agreed upon follow-up steps. Also request that the client review the report and bring any perceived discrepancies to your attention.

Keep It Simple

Wherever possible, refrain from using financial jargon, unless you are certain your client understands it. Your clients will thank you for speaking in plain English. By doing so, you also will exponentially increase the chance that everyone who may be in the room will comprehend your meaning.

Lead by Example/Be Consistent

Impress your clients and set an example for your partners and employees by aligning what you say with what you do. When your actions reinforce your words, it sends a powerful message that you respect others and take your business seriously.