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Ever wonder how some professional service firms stay in business, given the poor service they provide for their clients?

There are many good consultants, attorneys, accountants, and other professionals out there… but there are many others who seem to have forgotten that their clients are the reason they’re in business… not a burden to be tolerated (at best) or even scorned (at worst).

Here are some common complaints clients often have about their CPAs (especially during this, the busiest season in the accounting business):

“My accountant’s attitude stinks,” a disgruntled client mentions.  “He always acts like he’s doing me a big favor taking care of my taxes and other work… like he’s always too busy for me… like I’m far from his biggest or most important client.  And he’s always scolding me for not being a better bookkeeper!”

Another unhappy client agrees: “My CPA never returns my calls the first time I leave a message.  In fact, after three or four messages, I finally send an email, even if I just have a quick, easy question… I’m lucky if I get a terse reply within a week.  And odds are about 50/50 that she won’t even answer the question!”

“I pay my accountant a lot of money,” another grumpy client says, “and the fees go up every year!  And even so, it seems like just about every filing or project has some kind of mistake in it.  Most of the errors are small and easily fixed… but I sometimes wonder if I wouldn’t be better off doing my own accounting.”

If you’ve experienced any of these problems with your accountant, rest assured: there are better folks out there.

You should be able to do business with a CPA who’s always focused on the “Three Cs of Customer Service” – Competence, Communication, and Courtesy.

After all, even if an accountant has an overflowing work load (which is common this time of year), isn’t that the problem they want to have in their business?  In fact, isn’t that the situation they asked for?

Granted, even the best busy professionals occasionally drop the ball.  Nobody’s perfect!  But as a general rule, the best CPAs work hard to maintain a good track record on The Three Cs.

  • Competence.  It’s absolutely necessary that your accountant be competent.  Unfortunately, though, many CPAs operate as though they think that’s the only thing that matters.  If I’m using my professional expertise to do my client’s work correctly – and save him money – he ought to be happy enough, the thinking often goes.  I don’t have time for hand-holding.  But when an accountant’s entire business is built on competence alone, when the occasional mistake is made, it’ll be hard to appeal to the client’s understanding nature!
  • Communication.  No matter how busy things get, a great CPA stays in touch with her clients.  Phone and email inquiries should have responses within a reasonable time period (often 24-48 hours, depending on the complexity of the inquiry)… and the accountant should state that as her standard, and hold herself to it.  How hard is it to pick up the phone or send an email, telling the client you’re “working on it,” even if you don’t have the answer within a day or two?
  • Courtesy.  Again, how hard is it to be courteous to the people who’re paying your firm’s bills?  A great accountant never scolds his clients when they let things get behind – instead, he remembers that everyone (and especially ever business owner) gets busy at times.  The best accountants make it clear they’re on their client’s side – always!  They remember to thank their clients for their business, and treat them with courtesy and respect at all times.

Too many CPAs seem to have forgotten the tried-and-true adage that when customers are happy, they tell a couple of their friends… but when they’re unhappy, they tell everybody.

Even worse, when it comes to professional services like accounting, a dissatisfied client will not tell their CPA why – they’ll just leave, and take their business elsewhere.

You should be working with a CCCCPA – A Competent, Communicative, Courteous Certified Professional Accountant!  They’re out there.  And when you engage the services of a truly service-oriented accountant, you might be surprised at how much happier – and wealthier! – you’ll be.