Everyone knows the basics – clients send accountants a shoebox full of receipts, the accountant fills in the right paperwork, at the right time, and both parties see each other again the following year. Job done.
But, if accountants merely stick with the basics, they will be selling their clients (and themselves) short. From helping clients with financial goal setting for their business to long-term tax planning, there is so much more that accountants can offer. However, many business owners have little idea of just what a great ally a good accountant can be for their business – and this is where the problem lies.
Do you demonstrate your value?
Although you know that you can offer services to your client that are above and beyond the basic level of service expected, your client may not be aware.
Affordability, efficiency and friendliness rarely come into play here – if you simply help your client with their tax return and send them on their way, you’re doing little to demonstrate your true value. As a result, you run the risk of your client starting to shop around to find an accountant who will go that extra mile for them and their business.
Of course, nothing is more vital to your own business success than a repeat customer – one who appreciates the value you bring to their business and who, in return, will drive quality referrals your way. So, how do you turn a client who is potentially shopping around into one who will sing your praises to everyone they meet?
What does your clients want from you?
Aside from wanting their tax returns filed in an efficient and timely manner, what more does your client need? By putting yourself in your client’s shoes, and really get to know them and their businesses, you’ll get to the heart of what it is that they’re looking for when they hire an accountant.
Look beyond the basics and consider the following:
1. Peace of mind
Your clients – sole traders and small business owners – are performing a constant juggling act. It is exhausting and stressful and unless they are au fait with accounting practices, nothing is likely to cause them more stress than the financial side of their business.
Make sure you are always clear in your communications with your client; if they know exactly what they need to do, what they need to provide you with and when they need to get it done, the whole process will go much more smoothly. You will then be in a great position to give your client the reassurance they need.
It’s not necessary for clients to know the ins and outs of how you are keeping their business financials under control; they just need to feel confident that you are doing so. By giving them that peace of mind, you’re giving them the time, freedom and confidence to get on with running their business.
2. Clear projections
Business owners are constantly looking to (and worrying about) the future, therefore why not focus not only on the last 12 months, but also the year ahead? As an accountant, no one is better placed to advise clients on long-term planning for their business.
Help and support your clients tackle the big decisions, whether they involve preparing a tax bill, taking on an additional employee, or planning to reinvest in their company.
3. Available and accessible help
Increasingly, business owners want to have more control over every aspect of their business, rather than hand everything over to their accountant and forget about it. This include areas that they outsource to experts.
This is where digital accounting software can be a real asset. By storing your clients’ accounts in a cloud-based system, your clients can work with you online, from any device. This is invaluable for giving them, and you, a real-time view of their financial situation, allowing you to offer the most relevant and up-to-date advice.
4. Keeping up-to-date
More than ever clients will need their accountants to act as a translator when it comes to significant developments in the world of business and finance.
Thanks to the internet, they will have a better awareness of upcoming changes, compared to clients 20 years ago. As their accountant, you need to be a reliable source of information, someone who will break down the jargon and translate policy speak into something they can understand.
5. Preparing for Making Tax Digital
Like it or loathe it, fear or revere it, Making Tax Digital (MTD) is coming and it’s your job to help your clients with the transition.
Understand that your clients will have heard at least some of the rumours surrounding MTD; what they need from you is a simple explanation of what it will actually mean for their business. Help them to understand MTD and give them the tools and the knowledge needed to face the coming changes with confidence.
Digging a little deeper to find out what your clients want is a win-win. They receive advice and support on the things that really matter to them and their business, and you have the opportunity to demonstrate the value you bring as an informed and professional service provider.
Stay up-to-date with the latest on the big changes that are going to affect your clients with Clear Books, provider of online accounting software for UK small businesses and accountants.
Also, find out more about how Clear Books can help small businesses meet the requirements of Making Tax Digital by exploring Clear Books Micro and Clear Books Practice Edition, two new products designed to help you fulfil your clients’ Making Tax Digital needs.