Skip to content

The Power of Positive Experiences

The power of positive personal experiences cannot be overstated. Each interaction is an opportunity to impress, share, and care, thereby solidifying long-term relationships. Unlike automated pipelines that attempt to create cookie-cutter outcomes, human interactions are unique and nuanced, requiring a personal touch that machines, processes and procedures simply cannot replicate.

On Bank Holiday Monday, my son and his teammates had the incredible opportunity to play football on the prestigious turf of Stamford Bridge, experiencing what it’s like to perform on a Premier League stage. While it was undoubtedly a day filled with team bonding and shared memories, I observed that each child’s experience—and, in some cases, that of the parents—varied significantly (and not in a positive way). Despite identical arrangements for each team and individual, the outcomes were vastly different. This highlights the beauty of our humanity: the unique perspectives and experiences each of us brings to the table.

The Essence of Personal Interaction

Every individual client is unique, bringing different needs, expectations, and circumstances to the table. An automated system might streamline processes, but it also risks stripping away the personalised touch that clients value. The first impression is crucial, and an automated greeting or response can set a tone of indifference that may be hard to overcome.

It saddens me that my last three conversations have looked like this:

This is from an ex-client I haven’t worked with for several years. The second was a referral from a colleague from my very first job over 20 years ago. Despite never having worked together in a practice environment and having no knowledge of my accountancy credentials, he reached out. Finally, a business owner from 15 years ago, with whom I worked indirectly in the finance department, sought an accountant he could trust.

These examples aren’t about boasting; they’re about the missed opportunities for positive personal experiences that build strong relationships. There’s no mention of tech or automation here, even though it’s one of my strengths. I believe in using these tools to enhance personal experiences, not replace them.

I’m not looking to build an asset for disposal; I’ve been there, done that, and didn’t enjoy the ride. Despite one of these interactions being with a client from that disposal, they’ve returned for more. What does that say about the current state of the accountancy industry? It suggests that personal connections and trust still hold significant value, and many are yearning for that genuine relationship amidst an increasingly automated landscape.

Do Accountants Take Advantage of Financial Intimacy?

Accountants have access to sensitive financial information, which places them in a position of significant trust. However, there’s a risk of becoming complacent, assuming that clients won’t leave due to their financial apathy or the perceived complexity of changing accountants. This complacency can lead to neglect and a lack of proactive engagement, which can erode trust over time.

What Clients Dislike About Their Accountants

According to various reports and surveys, the following are common client complaints:

Slow Response Times: Client’s dislike waiting weeks for responses. Timely communication is a critical aspect of client satisfaction. Nothing says I don’t care about you more than making someone wait. Nothing says I have too many clients than sorry you will have to wait you are not a priority for me right now.

Lack of Personalised Service: Clients feel undervalued when they receive generic advice or services. This often comes from not knowing clients well enough to personalise the service or a lack of care.

Poor Communication: Miscommunication or lack of communication can lead to misunderstandings and dissatisfaction. The communication method is also a problem with accountants often wanting clients to use the tools they are familiar with. Nothing says I don’t love you more than another client portal. Clients think if it is important you would pick up the phone so often ignore initial communications.

High Fees Without Clear Justification: Clients want to understand what they are paying for and feel that the fees are justified by the value they receive. A move to ‘value’ based pricing without providing additional value erodes the trust in a relationship. Most switched-on business owners are consuming the same business lessons you are.

Statistics and Reports

A survey by Accounting Today revealed that nearly 30% of clients cited slow response times as their biggest frustration with accountants. Furthermore, a report by Client Heartbeat indicated that 18% of clients left their accountants due to poor customer service.

57% of clients feel small and down the priority list

If you are in the accounting industry, you don’t need me to labour on this point. You know.

The great news is that all this stuff is easily rectified. Just pick up the phone and talk to people. Human to human. You can do it and I believe in you. People buy from people they know, like and trust. Why can’t that be you? Who doesn’t want to be known, liked and trusted but it doesn’t come easy. You must work at it consistently and authentically which is why I don’t’ believe rapport and long-lasting relationships can be automated.

We must make a choice between being automated and anonymous or personal and present. The latter taking courage as it means giving up some of yourself and reducing client numbers to do it well. Again, if you are looking to build and exit this is not for you.

The Human Touch: Beyond Automation

Pros of Building Long-Lasting Relationships:

Trust and Loyalty: Personal interactions build trust and loyalty. Clients who feel valued and understood are more likely to remain loyal.

Referrals: Satisfied clients are more likely to refer others, helping to grow the business organically. If you have great clients, they normally know and refer other great clients.

Better Understanding: Personalised interactions enable accountants to understand their clients’ needs better, allowing for more tailored advice and solutions.

Client Satisfaction: Personal attention leads to higher client satisfaction, which can result in long-term financial benefits and stability for the firm.

Cons of Building Long-Lasting Relationships:

Time-Consuming: Building and maintaining personal relationships can be time-consuming, potentially reducing the efficiency of handling multiple clients.

Emotional Labour: Managing personal relationships requires emotional labour, which can be taxing on accountants. This was one of the main reasons I sold my practice. I was so emotionally invested in clients’ businesses I made myself ill. This is a huge problem for accountants that care (sometimes too much).

Scalability Issues: Personalised interactions are harder to scale, especially as the client base grows. How can you scale yourself? Perhaps you don’t need to. Scaling or growing often means decoupling yourself from your clients. Is that what you want or need?

Key Components for Building Trust and Long-Term Relationships

Communication: Open, honest, and timely communication is crucial. Clients appreciate knowing that their concerns are being addressed promptly.

Transparency: Being transparent about fees, processes, and potential outcomes builds trust.

Empathy: Understanding and empathizing with clients’ situations and emotions fosters a deeper connection.

Consistency: Delivering consistent results and maintaining regular contact helps in reinforcing trust over time.

Professionalism: Maintaining a high level of professionalism ensures that clients feel respected and valued.

Conclusion

While automation in accountancy can streamline certain processes, it is the positive personal experiences that build and sustain long-term relationships. These relationships are based on trust, communication, empathy, and professionalism. Understanding and addressing client concerns, such as slow response times and lack of personalised service, is crucial. By prioritising these human elements, accountants can not only retain their clients but also create a strong foundation for future growth.

Building strong, personal relationships in the accountancy profession is more than just a business strategy—it’s about valuing and understanding the human element that drives client satisfaction and loyalty.

For all the positive experiences on show at Stamford Bridge it will be the couple of negative ones that will be shared and remembered in the years to come. Don’t let that be your business narrative.