A friend of mine gave me a copy of a “wish list” he created when he was looking for an accountant to do his work. I thought you might be interested in what he regarded as being important. You could even take it further and ask yourself how you and your firm stacks up. Here is his list:
Simplicity – systems and advice to keep our accounting processes and a hand-over easy.
Truth – if you don’t know the answer, say so. If you make a mistake, say so and let’s move on.
Expectations – accurate estimates of fees and time to complete before the work starts, no more than 10% out when it is finally billed.
Proactive – look over my shoulder and tell me when you think what I’m doing could be improved, share your knowledge and experience with me.
Aggressive – but don’t over-complicate and not at the risk of an audit by the taxation authorities.
Stability and accessibility – a consistent Key Contact person to deal with so there’s no chopping and changing contacts and having to re-explain structures, goals and setup each time. If you do want to change your team members around please introduce me to my new “contact person.”
Fees – reasonable and transparent, don’t make me pay for your mistakes or lack of experience.
Cashflow – ability to balance payments over the year (happy to do that in advance).
Management – if work can be done by a member of your staff that’s fine, but don’t abandon me completely.
Timing & Contact – two main contacts a year initiated by you: tax planning during the last 2–3 months of the financial year and a review meeting within 2 months of you receiving my books.
In response, his new accountant (who incidentally committed to all of his documented expectations) gave him a list of characteristics that reflected what he was looking for in a client:
Trust – I need to be trusted to be able to a proper job.
Openness – In working with any client it is frustrating, and prevents me doing all I can, if you do not give me all the information I need. Because of the nature of my job this requires that you be totally open about your affairs, otherwise I may give inappropriate advice.
Feedback – I would much prefer clients to be totally honest about how they feel about my firm’s performance – feedback (good or bad) is how we’re going to improve.
Defined Expectations – I prefer to know what you expect from me. Do you just want tax returns and no advice, or are you looking for more than that.
Response to queries – Obviously a timely response to requests for information from clients assists me greatly and enables me to provide you with a much better and faster service.
Time frame for work – I need clients to understand that we are all busy and work can’t always be done instantly – I expect my clients to be reasonable in terms of times frames for work my firm does for them.
I would be interested to hear what you think your clients are looking for in the relationship they have with you and, importantly, what characteristics you consider to be important for defining a good client.