With another busy season in the books, CPAs and accounting professionals can look back and analyze how they communicated with their clients. Were emails sent with clarity or were they rushed in trying to obtain last minute documentation? Were phone conversations brief and to the point and did you include any personal touches? Chances are, whether one is involved in tax season or not, there are many ways accounting professionals can improve their communication with staff and clients. From elevator pitches to landing a new client, communication should be a tool to help create your “executive presence.”
Here are 10 best practices when communicating:
- Say what you mean and mean what you say. Too often we do not say what is exactly on our mind. We don’t get to the salient point and it doesn’t help us or our clients.
- Use personal notes. Accountants do not realize the value added from a signed note. It can go a long way.
Learn the proper way to get off the phone with long-winded clients. This includes summarizing briefly what has to get done to end the conversation in a polite way.
- Using laptops during staff meetings is a no-no. It gives people far too much leeway to answer their emails and be distracted from what you are presenting or discussing.
- Taking client calls during staff meetings is disrespectful. Client calls are important but so are staff meetings. You are not helping your client or yourself in dismissing the staff meeting.
- Avoid non-executive speak with words such as “literally?” or “seriously?” These are word fillers which should come out of one’s vocabulary.
- Learn telephone protocol to get through faster. When calling a new client or contact, introduce yourself to the person answering the phone as well as why you are calling. Explaining how you met someone will usually get you through faster than if you just say your name.
- Find out from clients what is the best way to communicate. With five generations in the workforce, some may prefer email and some may desire a phone call. Ask them so you don’t insult anyone.
- Don’t “reply all” on staff emails if you are only talking to one person about their function. It’s not necessary to “reply all” as often as people do. It often oversteps the boundaries of leadership.
- Try not to use “read receipts” on emails all the time. It is an annoyance and not necessary. Clients and staff will not take you seriously.
It goes without saying that the most effective way to communicate is to treat clients and staff with respect. But as CPAs are typically more versed in numbers than the written word, most could use some reminders on what communication etiquette is needed for good leadership.