A proactive approach to client service

Practice Management Proactive Service

What does it look like to be proactive instead of reactive? I think one of the best ways I have heard it described is when a client says they have the feeling that they have a tax and accounting professional in their corner fighting for them.

A few months ago, I had a potential client come to me asking for help, after having gone through two CPAs in 18 months. During our initial conversation, two phrases they said stuck out to me – the one above and that they just want to feel like they have a CPA who cares about their business.

The client was a two-man operation. Two years into their business, they had grown to 26 employees spread across 12 different states, with the same original two founders managing everything from their office in Texas. They had hired an office manager/bookkeeper who was also a part-time bookkeeper for another client of mine. Because the bookkeeper had confidence in my abilities, she said that she would not take the job unless she could have her CPA on retainer helping her out.

This new client had previously been using a CPA for taxes and a different company for payroll. What were their complaints? First, they could never get in touch with their CPA. It would take five to 10 days for the CPA to respond to their emails or calls. Second, the payroll company they used had sold them on an “upgraded” payroll platform for $13,000, a platform that led to multiple issues for my new client. The upgraded platform was incredibly difficult to navigate – the payroll company did not have the client’s data readily available to them unless they logged onto two different platforms. When my client asked to go back to the old platform, they refused. And to make matters worse, their sales rep suddenly vanished.

I came into the situation, worked with the bookkeeper, and quickly reconciled the last eight months using QuickBooks® Online. I uncovered about $70,000 of duplicate, recorded revenue that they would have had to pay tax on if the error hadn’t been fixed. From there, I looked at their payroll setup, and also had a difficult time navigating the new platform. I called their payroll company and tried to work with them to see if the client could get back to the old platform, but the payroll provider was going to charge the client again to put them back on the old platform.

At this point, I recommended that the client cut their losses and switch to QuickBooks Online Payroll. I told the client that I had worked with this payroll program for years and knew it would provide an integrated payroll solution. I also offered to manage the conversion. I had already factored the payroll engagement into my retainer, anticipating they would need this kind of help. Within two weeks, we converted all of the year-to-date information, as well as compiled a list of each state we were registered in with login info and tax IDs, every payroll deductible, and each garnishment, and went live with Intuit® QuickBooks Online Payroll. The rep was very responsive.

Once things were cleaned up, it was time to step in with a proactive approach. I make it a practice to call clients at least twice a month just to check in. I ask how their business is going. I inquire about any ideas for improvement or growth that they have, and I listen to see if there is anything I can do to help. This client had already started doing business in yet one more state since we last spoke, but because they emailed me about the bid they sent well before they started working in that state, we had everything ready in time on the accounting side. Since we are working so closely together now, we will also be ready for tax time, and plan to use QuickBooks Online alongside Intuit ProConnect™ Tax.

Not everything always runs smoothly! Sometimes I get delayed and need to be reminded about a couple of tasks, but because I check in with the client and ask about the future on a regular basis, I end up getting all the tasks completed at the end of the day, and they know I care about their business – I’m in their corner fighting for them.

Creating a proactive vs. reactive practice isn’t difficult – and I certainly did not invent this approach – but if more tax and accounting practitioners addressed their clients’ needs before the client even knows they have a need, we would forever hold the esteem of being the trusted advisor.

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