Providing clients with year-round tax advice is a sound way to maintain and build your business. The tax year is rich in opportunities to collaborate with clients, and showcase your value and expertise. Proactive tax planners can advise clients on due dates and extension deadlines for quarterly tax payments, deductions that are either new or expiring, year-end tax planning tips, and tax scam alerts.
As the tax code becomes more and more complex, one of today’s key areas deals with the confusion generated by the tax implications of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As a result, the ACA presents a perfect opportunity to connect with clients and put them at ease by providing timely, pertinent information, says Chuck McCabe, CEO of Peoples Income Tax Inc., and The Income Tax School in Glen Allen, Va.
Tax preparers are the front line information source at tax time. Keeping clients well-informed of ACA requirements and potential penalties can alleviate unpleasant surprises as returns are finalized.
“The more critical the services you provide, the stronger the professional relationship will be with your clients,” says McCabe. “Regularly connecting with clients will keep you in the forefront of their mind as a trusted advisor. These solid connections not only lead to satisfied clients; they also will generate referrals.”
Many of the customer service techniques McCabe has in his business can be used by accountants in their firms. For example, in his role at The Income Tax School, McCabe trains tax preparers and accountants on the intricacies of the ACA through targeted seminars. But, his client interaction doesn’t stop there. “We answer questions for our clients year-round,” he says. “We also offer services such as spring tax planning reviews – services that are especially helpful for clients with complex tax returns.”
Advice on complex tax issues is only part of McCabe’s strategy to forge solid client relationships. He also hosts special events throughout the year, including summer picnics and holiday open houses. Through social media channels, he connects with current and potential clients via monthly newsletters, tax alerts and planning tips.
McCabe also deploys a comprehensive employee-training regimen that covers tax return preparation skills and reviews that include accuracy metrics and customer service benchmarks. To ensure employees are adhering to customer service best practices, McCabe uses “secret shoppers” – people posing as clients who make visits seeking tax preparations assistance. These professionals provide detailed service evaluations and performance assessments following each visit.
Tax preparers can also measure the impact of their customer service strategies by using surveys throughout the year to gauge client satisfaction. Surveys can provide important information on how service levels can be improved, and on how likely clients are to generate referrals.
By developing a comprehensive client experience emphasizing clear communication, smooth interaction, rigorous evaluation and diligent follow-up, you can maintain a satisfied client base. That’s a solid foundation you can build on.
Develop a successful customer service strategy by using these three basic principles as a guide:
- Connect. Explore opportunities to collaborate with your clients and showcase your value and expertise.
- Prepare. Develop comprehensive employee-training programs that include customer service benchmarks and regular employee evaluations.
- Measure. Use surveys throughout the year to gauge client satisfaction, and produce ideas for improvement, as well as strategies to generate referrals.