What Do Clients Want? Mostly, ‘More’

But when do you say ‘Enough!’? Join the study. Get the answers.

July 16, 2007
by Rick Telberg/At Large

CPAs do a lot of things in the course of their accounting work, from audits to tax prep to business advice to mopping up the tears of those who have been brave and foolish enough to venture into the jungle of American entrepreneurialism.

But in a certain way, all of these functions boil down to one: Satisfying your clientele.

It’s highly advisable, then, for CPAs to have an idea of what they can do to keep these very important people satisfied.

Figuring that two groups of people know how to do that — CPAs and the clients themselves — Bay Street Group cranked out a survey asking them what CPA firms could be doing to better satisfy their clients.

What do clients really want?

Join the study. Get the answers.

(Free. Confidential.)

It’s an open-ended question. And, as you might expect when you ask several thousand intelligent people a fairly big question, we got fairly disparate answers.

What is surprising is how often answers from CPAs and CFOs echo each other.

“Communication” was something that many professionals on both sides of the public/corporate accounting fence agreed on.

In fact, Dana L. Sutton, a sole proprietor in Hindsville, Ark., who is also a controller, makes exactly that point.

“Communicate!” Sutton says, complete with exclamation point. “Clients don’t care how much you know — they just want you to return their phone calls — or take them in the first place!”

We’re not convinced that clients don’t care how much their CPAs really know (after all, what are you going to talk about when you return the phone call, the weather?), but we’re certainly getting an earful about the need for better communication. Plenty of answers start with “communicate” or “communication,” and a slew of others include one of those words elsewhere in their answers.

Even more popular is the word “listen.” We were listening when we heard “Listening, listening and more listening,” from Mackey McNeill, chief of The Advisory Group, an accountancy firm in Covington, Ky.

But … listening for what?

“Listening to their clients’ problems and goals,” says Thomas Marsh, of Marsh & McConnell, a CPA firm in Alpharetta, Ga.

“Listening to clients and responding as to how to keep costs down,” says an anonymous vice president and compliance chief at a major corporation.

“Listening to their clients’ needs and guiding them through the challenges they are facing,” says Barbara Robison, a sole proprietor in Marion, Iowa.

The word “more” is mentioned in a lot of answers, too. As in “more contact” and “more education” and “more hours in the day.”

“More attentiveness to individual needs,” says Ron Mosocco, of Ronald A. Mosocco, CPA/PFS/CFP, in Williamsburg, Va. “More proactive in selling our ability to plan ahead, not just compliance work.”

“More calling to see if there is anything on their mind we can help them with,” says Mort Stroud, a partner with Watkins, Ward and Stafford in West Point, Miss. “This would let them know we are thinking about them.”

“More face time during the year,” says a senior staffer of a small government agency. “I only see the auditors right before the audit starts — no planning.”

“More interim work, more experienced staff or at least more supervision of inexperienced staff,” says a senior financial officer at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, Miss. “More real meat in the audit versus rote work.”

So that’s how you keep your clients satisfied. Communicate. Listen. Whatever it is you’ve been giving them, give them more.


NOW IT'S YOUR TURN: What do clients really want? Join the study; get the answers.

COMMENTS: Rants, raves, idle thoughts or questions? Contact Rick Telberg.

Copyright © 2007 Bay Street Group LLC. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.


About Rick Telberg

Rick Telberg is editor at large/director of online content.

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Disclaimer: Any views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the AICPA or CPA2Biz. Official AICPA positions are determined through certain specific committee procedures, due process and deliberation.