What’s more important to an accountant – time or customer care?

I recently received a damaging email.

Not from my accountant from my dentist, but it’s relevant to your accountancy practice.

The email got my back up, big time. It damaged the relationship I have with my dentist. Accountants run a similar risk when using email.

Here’s a ‘word-for-word’ copy of the email (except the name has changed – I don’t want to upset them more than I have already):

Dear Mr Shrimpling

We would like to notify of a change of your appointment

Fri, 11 September 2015 at 09:00 with Dr N Prantok

Mon, 07 September 2015 at 11:00 with Dr N Prantok

If you are unable to make these appointment (s) please contact the surgery at your earliest convenience and we will re-arrange it for you

Regards

The Dental Practice

My dentist received a ‘constructively critical’ email from yours truly because:

1. They should have called me not emailed me (or called then emailed)

2. They should have apologised and explained what had gone wrong

3. They should have had the decency to put their name on the email

4. They should have at least got the email gramatically correct

All credit to them for calling me within an hour of receiving the ‘feedback’ from me. More credit for apologising for not putting their name on the email.

They also explained why! Here’s their explanation for not calling and not naming themselves on the email…

“…because we were short of time.”

Short of time! Really?!

This dental practice sacrificed customer care to save a few moments of time. They risked losing a long-standing client because they could save a minute?

You and your people are under similar ‘time pressure’ in your firm. You and your people have many demands on your time. These demands and the ‘time pressure’ they create often become the dominant conversation. The dominant ‘time pressure’ conversation then starts to derail your customer care. Especially if you’re managing chargeable time.

It’s this pressure for time efficiency that results in the following behaviours I see in accountancy firms:

Clients bring books and records for you to prepare their accounts and what happens? They get an email from you to say “thank you”? Unlikely. They get a call from you to say thank you and to confirm everything is present and correct (or to request missing records)? Highly unlikely.

Can you see how this is a valuable customer care opportunity missed? All because it saves time not checking their records the instant they arrive, saves time not sending a thank you or, saves time that calling them up would take. Time can derail your customer care focus like it did with my dentist. But your average client fee will be much higher than most dentists. So your customer care needs to be even better.

• Your client agrees to a meeting or planned call but you don’t confirm it by email and text. Why? Because it’s been agreed verbally and time is better spent doing other things?

• A meeting confirmation by email and text is another customer care opportunity missed because time is scarce.

• You need something/anything from a client so you email them. It’s efficient and means you have a record of the communication request.

What’s wrong with a phone call and support email?

The lesson…

My dentist called me up within an hour of sending a rubbish and inappropriate email and saved the relationship, just. How many other customers have they risked with the same strategy?

How many of your client relationships are you risking because you value time more than you value clients?

How many clients are you risking because your default way of communicating is email rather the phone call at key moments of truth in your client relationship?

Both time and clients are precious. But a small investment in customer care time can and does reap many rewards in the form of client retention and client referrals. Beware of email communication!

Click here to read a bitesite report on the true difference that great client care can make to your firm.​

Paul Shrimpling

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