04 May Client Communications in 21st Century – What Works?
Let’s start with what doesn’t work: clients late for meetings, phone tag, and e-mail hell. If your primary communications methods are: meetings, phone calls, and e-mail, you’re losing out on a lot of money and a saner life.
21st century clients want all the same things 20th century clients wanted, just in new ways. They still want great service at reasonable prices with insightful financial and business advice. They just want all of that provided differently.
Not only are meetings, phone calls, and e-mails inconvenient for you, 21st century clients don’t like them either. Exposure to continuous marketing and constant interruption makes people value time over almost any other currency including crisp new Harriet Tubman twenties.
Traffic makes meetings miserable. Telemarketing has largely killed the telephone. Spam has nearly strangled e-mail. Our clients are tired of time stolen unnecessarily.
That’s great news for us, as all three of these media can be time and productivity killers for us. If you have 1,000 tax clients, who each require three 15 minute phone calls to complete their returns, at a $200 billing rate, you invest $150K in telephone time per year. If you can cut that by 25%, you are saving $37.5K over a year. That’s a year’s college tuition for the parents among us.
It’s not just about saving money and enhancing productivity. Adopting 21st century communications techniques yields a younger client base, and a younger client base is more valuable at retirement. If you were buying a firm, would you rather purchase a client base of 75 year olds or a client base of 40 year olds? Yes, you’ll lose clients, but you’ll gain better, more profitable ones. Your 20th century clients are dying off anyway – literally.
21st century communications means closed cloud, opt-in networks. Sound way too fancy for your clients? How many clients don’t bank electronically? How many don’t have Amazon accounts? These are well accepted closed cloud, opt-in networks. If your clients use Facebook to post dancing cat pictures (I’m not judging), they’ll use your closed network. Maybe I am judging.
So just what is a closed cloud, opt-in network for CPA’s and accountants? I call them portals plus. Portals alone are so 2010, like Justin Bieber (I’m definitely judging now).
A closed cloud, opt-in network combines a portal with client communications and project management. It automates many routine client communications like reminders to answer questions and approve draft returns.
Clarity Practice Management is a fine example. Of course, I’m not biased. Two others are XCM and Jetpack Workflow. There really aren’t many at this point. I won’t lobby for CPM except to state that Justin Bieber doesn’t endorse it. What could be a better endorsement?
Thanks for reading!
Frank Stitely, CPA, CVA