Demonstrating genuine care for clients is easy and makes client relationships the best that they can be. Caring for client's results in trusting relationships that can last until you retire. This care benefits both the practitioner and the client and, more importantly, it is the right thing to do.
The three C's represent some basic caring concepts that I try to follow while developing and maintaining client relationships. They include:
Clients assume you care enough to only take on work to the extent you're knowledgeable and capable of completing. For new projects or "unfamiliar territory," clients assume you care enough about them to alert them to the fact that this may be the first time you've performed this kind of work. You know you have the competency to do it, but you'll need to do additional research (may require more time), etc., in order to produce the deliverable. If you're clearly not capable, refuse the assignment and find someone who is capable.
Care enough to let clients know how projects are going and that the work is being completed according to their expectations. If expectations are not going to be met, let the client know immediately. Bottom line, no surprises. Additionally, care enough to spend time inquiring about client's interests outside of work, such as hobbies, family, sports, etc. (small talk). Depending on the type of client, take time out of your schedule to visit them over lunch (I recommend at least one time per year, more often may be appropriate).
Clients assume you care enough about your relationship with them to not talk about confidential issues or "negative" issues" to others (inside or outside of the their organization). They can trust that what they say only stays with you. They must see you demonstrate the respect they expect, so be careful not to talk about other client's confidential matters or negatively in front of them, as they will figure you talk about them while you're with other clients.
Caring will put you on a path of better serving your clients while receiving certain client benefits:
Reconciliation (Forgiveness) When Mistakes or Deadlines are Missed
Receiving forgiveness for unintentional errors rarely occurs if clients don't think you care as much as you should. They must know and "feel" you genuinely care. This means treating them even better than you would expect to be treated.
Repeat and Referral Business
This probably is the best compliment an accountant can receive. Having clients wanting you to do more work for them, as well as clients voluntarily bragging about you to people in their spheres of influence is very telling about the care and services provided by you and your associates.
Practitioners will have less difficulty getting clients to pay your fees. Clients will trust you and value the services you provide as long as you continue to demonstrate that you genuinely care.
James G. Herblin, CPA, is president of Herblin P.C. in Dallas. He focuses his attention on providing business valuation services, forensic and fraud accounting, litigation support, attest, accounting and tax, and business consulting services. You may reach him at email@example.com.