Now is the time for the human touch...
Your clients look to you for trusted advice and guidance.
But you’re no expert on covid-19.
Neither are we.
What’s clear and obvious though, is that the sense of uncertainty is high, and still rising.
Time to be more connected, not less connected...
Now is the time to be more connected to your clients rather than less.
Not physically (for obvious reasons) but by phone, video-call and digitally.
When clients feel a heightened sense of doubt, insecurity and concern they’d appreciate a calm and collected view of things.
Now’s the time for a personal contact plan for your business clients – build a schedule of calls with your clients.
So, what role for the accountant?
How about you provide a calm and collected perspective whilst the press and the politicians focus on the daily increases in cases, contradictory views on what to do next and whether we should be travelling or self-isolating.
What do your business clients expect from their accountant?
I expect they would appreciate a calm, collected and balanced view from you.
A recent message from Paul Surtees of Capitalise, gives both an historical economic perspective that also gives an expectation of getting back to ‘business-as-usual’ later. By doing this Paul brings a more balanced view to the current situation.
Paul’s full article is here.
I appreciate this article as it makes me feel less uncertain, as a business owner, about the economic impact of the current melee surrounding the covid-19 outbreak. Thank you, Paul Surtees.
In essence Paul shows that no matter how economically challenged we are at this time, we will come out the other side as we did after the 2008 crash, the wars in the middle east and the 9/11 tragedy.
You could take the essence of Paul’s message and share it with your clients on your website and by email with clients – it may reassure your clients a little too.
You’ll find a few paragraphs at the end of this blog that could form the basis of a calm and collected website or email message to your clients, using Paul’s article for inspiration. You might also, as I have done, acknowledge the source of the commentary, so that Paul gets the credit for this wider and more balanced view of things.
However, what matters more than your email and website messages are your supportive phone calls to clients.
What could you be saying?
You and your team could (indeed I would argue you should) build a contact plan for all clients – one that has you calling them for a supportive chat.
Your clients are going to be having challenges around how to work with their customers, their teams and suppliers too. There will be cash concerns with many of your clients and real concern over the profitability impact too. Wouldn’t they appreciate a calming call with you?
What exactly would you discuss? Here’s a series of questions you could adapt to use with clients to ensure you have a practical and supportive discussion:
“In what ways are you seeing customers change their buying behaviour with you?”
“How are you and your team responding to these changes?”
“What impact do you think this is going to have on revenues?”
“What are you doing to control costs?”
"How are you planning to support your team and ensure they are feeling OK about what’s happening?”
The above questions are inspired by the Q&A framework created by Neil Rackham called SPIN:
- Questions about their SITUATION
- Questions about the PROBLEMS they are experiencing or expect to happen
- Questions about the IMPLICATIONS or consequences on the people and the finances of their business
- Questions about ways of helping/managing/adapting to the situation/problem so they are clear on the NEEDS/PAYOFF required
If you want more help on constructing great questions for productive conversations with clients here’s a 4-page report that can help
Digital communication to all your clients...
Even though we’re all avoiding handshakes and hugs it makes sense to have a personal and ‘human’ contact with your clients during these uncertain times.
Email all your clients with a supportive message – see below for suggestions
Post something on the home page of your website to make it easy for clients to access your support
Call all your clients in the coming days and weeks
Email and website wording you could use...
“We’ve been wondering what the economic outlook for the stock market and as a result the broader economy will be of COVID-19. First we thought it would pay to look at past crises and see what happens.
The Volatility Index (VIX) was created by the Chicago Board of Options Exchange to represent the global stock market’s expectation of 30-day forward-looking volatility.
As you can see below, since 1990, there has only been one period of market volatility that compares to the one we’re now facing - the financial crunch of 2008.
However please see how quickly these spikes in volatility normalise. Each of the events listed above were clearly significant on a global basis, but the fear that came with them diminished. We have been through many meaningful crises over the last 30 years, but we do always get through them and we will again.
Whilst the short-term outlook is poor, Governments and central banks are responding. We have seen the Bank of England take action. In cutting rates to all-time lows (0.25%) the bank is reducing costs and improving the availability of funds through the monetary system.
We are seeing encouraging signs from the banks. For existing bank borrowers, the messaging from Tier 1 lenders has been positive - Lloyds, Natwest and Barclays seem to be open to overdraft increases, extensions and repayment holidays. Natwest, for instance, have committed a £5b fund, whilst Lloyds have arranged £2b of finance available for SMEs up to £25m.
If you need working capital funds now or might need them in the future, it pays to be mindful that the lenders might not always be as open as they are today. An approach now for working capital is likely to get a better response than we have been used to in recent times.
The Government website is being updated on a daily basis and is great source of relevant information:
employers go here - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/guidance-for-employers-and-businesses-on-covid-19
employees go here - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-guidance-for-employees
Inviting clients to then talk this through with you would be an obvious ‘call-to-action’ in your email, website or blog communication.
Balanced, calm and collected...
Being seen to be balanced and calm is what your clients expect from you, their accountant. I hope this blog helps you share a calm and collected response to the current situation. My thanks again to Paul Surtees for the inspiration and a lot of the words here.