Who's talking to your clients - is it you?
Bob Edwards has developed a novel approach to keeping clients informed about tax issues. He talks to them!
Most of us in public practice have had a conversation with clients from time to time that starts with them saying “I was talking to someone in the pub last night and their accountant says…” the inference being, of course, “why didn't you tell me about this?” Invariably the advice being given was about ways to save money by paying less tax.
My teeth suffer from acute sensitivity to cold; eating ice cream for me is a dangerous game! If my dentist became aware that a protective coating that would cure the problem could be applied to the offending teeth, I would expect him to contact me and recommend a course of suitable treatment. I would expect my dentist to keep me informed without charge, and bill me if I decide to go ahead with the treatment.
Duty to Clients
I would suggest that the same analogy could be applied to accountants and their clients. We owe a duty to our clients to keep them up to date with basic changes in the tax system. Both parties win in this exchange. You demonstrate a keen interest in keeping your clients informed and most clients will be appreciative. Ultimately you will sell more tax services if your clients are kept informed.
More importantly your clients will then be your ambassadors, and sing your praises to their friends and business colleagues. So how do we achieve this - how do we keep our clients up to date?
Years ago I had a conversation with a client on this very issue. It was clear that he was unwilling to pay me for an hour of my time every month so that we could meet and discuss any relevant tax changes. It was also clear that I was unwilling to give up an hour of time with no charge! This apparent 'conflict' led me to a solution, which has served my practice well for many years - I wrote and distributed my own tax newsletter.
Using a combination of e-mail and printed distribution I now send out monthly newsletters to several hundred clients and prospects. The major benefits have been:
- clients kept up to date - fewer complaints!
- more tax work from existing clients
- winning more new clients.
When I see a prospective new client, and they are unwilling to change immediately, I always ask for their e-mail address and permission to send a copy of our free monthly tax newsletter.
This provides me with an automatic follow up process - and more importantly places my practice name and useful tax information in their inbox or post tray every month. You can almost guarantee that their present adviser will not be doing this and it's almost inevitable that when the timing is right, they will be in touch!
A couple of final points - if you are communicating any technical issue to non-accountants you must use plain English. Also you do not want to advise when you write, rather you should be informing - providing enough to get your clients and prospects intrigued and hungry for more!
In the not too distant future regular, informed communication between practitioners and their contacts will become an imperative. If you are not talking to your clients, in my opinion, someone else will.
Editor's note: Bob Edwards has made his newsletter available to practitioners for a monthly subscription. Call 01926 334 773 for information or visit his website at www.uktaxworld.com.
Client Newsletter Providers
Other providers of similar services are:
- Practice Track
Tel: 0800 181 343
- Mercia Group Limited
Tel: 0116 258 1242
- LexisNexis Butterworths Tolley
Tel: 020 7400 2922
Bob Edwards FCCA - Practitioner, Leamington Spa