The value of getting intimate with clients

I first encountered the idea of becoming a ‘trusted adviser’ many years ago, even before I was introduced to David Maister’s seminal book The Trusted Advisor, explains Mark Lee.

It seemed obvious to me. As an accountant and tax adviser I wanted to be trusted by clients and thus to be a trusted adviser.

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  • Trusted advisers
  • The benefits of trust
  • Trust = credibility + reliability + intimacy + self-orientation
  • A common mistake
  • Balance is good
  • Intimacy can be learned

Continued...

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Comments
ShirleyM's picture

I always think honesty is a big element in trust.    4 thanks

ShirleyM | | Permalink

We are all individuals, and we have our own preferences of how we are treated by others, and I think we tend to use those same values when dealing with clients.

Being honest with your client, whether it is good news or bad, and being honest about your abilities has always worked for me. If delivering bad news, I try to find some way to soften the blow (if possible).

If a client asks me something about a subject that I am unfamiliar with, I say so, and ask for time to research the subject. This has never ever caused a problem for me, or my clients. I hate people fobbing me off, or telling me a load of rubbish, so I don't do it to my clients, either.

Also, I think delivering on your promises is important, and creates a lot of trust that your word is good. There is nothing worse than letting down people who rely on you. Better to under promise and over deliver, in my book.

Bob Harper's picture

A good KPI?    1 thanks

Bob Harper | | Permalink

@Mark - an interesting topic.

Firms have a choice a) continue to be service providers, focussed on the event/transaction of doing the year-end accounts/tax or b) develop deeper relationships with clients and add value.

If a firm chooses the first option then they will probably not need to be intimate with clients. They can just focus on internal issues like measuring time and being efficient.

On the other hand, if firms choose the later option then perhaps "intimacy" should be a Key Predictive Indicator. The more intimate a firm is with clients the more they will REALLY understand their clients.

When someone knows you understand them they will trust you and they will buy added value solutions.

Bob

being freindly, honesty & prudence et al    1 thanks

david5541 | | Permalink

ShirleyM wrote:

"We are all individuals, and we have our own preferences of how we are treated by others, and I think we tend to use those same values when dealing with clients.

Being honest with your client, whether it is good news or bad, and being honest about your abilities has always worked for me. If delivering bad news, I try to find some way to soften the blow (if possible).

If a client asks me something about a subject that I am unfamiliar with, I say so, and ask for time to research the subject. This has never ever caused a problem for me, or my clients. I hate people fobbing me off, or telling me a load of rubbish, so I don't do it to my clients, either.

Also, I think delivering on your promises is important, and creates a lot of trust that your word is good. There is nothing worse than letting down people who rely on you. Better to under promise and over deliver, in my book".

During my training prudence and integrity were drilled into me far more than freindliness & honesty. but being freindly and open and a listener is the only way to win clients and persuade them you are on their side and not that of HMRC/the regulatory authorities.

Which ball game do you play?

even hsbc & standard chartered banks couldnt be homest with the american authorities; so many clients' books and records could be crucified by the Inland revenue in their standard of compliance- does that make them dishonest? and what about cash?

continued business worry and lack of awareness/ability/education of acceptable standards of record keeping doesnt make a client dishonest, and what about franchisees?

reality and pressure has demanded a lot of accountants to be closer to their clients' than the auhorities in the way they work-that does not have to mean they are going to be dishonest but the enron/authur andersen & now banking audit reporting scandals both show how even the big four kow-tow to the audit market rather than give a true and fair independent audit opinion............ 

I don't think this is right Bob.    1 thanks

mackthefork | | Permalink

Bob Harper wrote:

@Mark - an interesting topic.

Firms have a choice a) continue to be service providers, focussed on the event/transaction of doing the year-end accounts/tax or b) develop deeper relationships with clients and add value.

If a firm chooses the first option then they will probably not need to be intimate with clients. They can just focus on internal issues like measuring time and being efficient.

On the other hand, if firms choose the later option then perhaps "intimacy" should be a Key Predictive Indicator. The more intimate a firm is with clients the more they will REALLY understand their clients.

When someone knows you understand them they will trust you and they will buy added value solutions.

Bob

Firms do not have to make a choice, good firms do both, the nuts and bolts of compliance work and knowing it will get done and you don't have to worry about it, is key to the real trust between client and advisor, I'm not saying the softer skills have no value I'm just saying the two are not mutually exclusive, you can give both by choosing the right people.

Regards

MtF

 

Don't want to get into    1 thanks

justsotax | | Permalink

an argument over value pricing.....but I think you will find that the more complex the client's personal/business affairs are, the more intimate the relationship with their agent (whether traditional or value pricing).  Value pricing may need the relationship to be 'intimate' where as for traditional it is effectively 'optional', but that doesn't equate to meaning that traditional clients don't build intimate relationships with their clients.  (that may well be a reworded version of MtF...probably is....)

Bob Harper's picture

Business model

Bob Harper | | Permalink

@MTF - yes, accounts/tax needs to be done well and you are free to disagree but I agree with Ron Baker that accountants need to change their entire business model and this requires a new focus.

I understand your point entirely, but...

mackthefork | | Permalink

Bob Harper wrote:

@MTF - yes, accounts/tax needs to be done well and you are free to disagree but I agree with Ron Baker that accountants need to change their entire business model and this requires a new focus.

as discussed previously I do not believe your principals relating to fees are compatible with profession/ethical standards for qualified accountants, so there is no hope of your ideas becoming mainstream imho.  Having said that on consideration I think some of your ideas have merit.

Regards

MtF

Bob Harper's picture

Mainstream

Bob Harper | | Permalink

@MfT - my principles are charging for value. This is ethical regardless if the accountant is qualified or not and there are two key reasons:

1. Because we charge for value we are always searching for value. This means researching and development which is our investment for the client. They only pay for this if they use/benefit from it.

2. Where there is minimal value (like year-end accounts) we innovate so we can charge a minimal amount and still make a profit.

Will it be mainstream? Probably not in my lifetime but if it doesn't there will be far fewer accountants needed in the UK. More work will be completed by software and overseas resources as prices for compliance continue to fall.

Bob

@Bob    1 thanks

mackthefork | | Permalink

Bob Harper wrote:

@MfT - my principles are charging for value. This is ethical regardless if the accountant is qualified or not and there are two key reasons:

1. Because we charge for value we are always searching for value. This means researching and development which is our investment for the client. They only pay for this if they use/benefit from it.

2. Where there is minimal value (like year-end accounts) we innovate so we can charge a minimal amount and still make a profit.

Will it be mainstream? Probably not in my lifetime but if it doesn't there will be far fewer accountants needed in the UK. More work will be completed by software and overseas resources as prices for compliance continue to fall.

Bob

1) It is hard enough to find a geniune accountant who doesn't make some blunder or other occassionally, many times I have seen unqualifieds set up with grand intentions to change the world, and many times they have floundered, lost their enthusiasm for their own hype, or got greedy and produced rubbish/negligently prepared or completely dishonest figures to acheive an aim at the expense of, qualified accountants, clients, and third parties alike.

2) There is a lot of value in a good compliance service, I have seen what it costs if done wrong or late or both.  To analogise council tax has little value to people (you empty my bins once a fortnight for how much?) but they pay it to stay out of jail.

3) It is a pretence to imply as you do that traditional accountants are all alike and offer no value to clients, the only sticking point for them is that it is clearly unethical to produce a set of figures which depending on the reaction of a third party decide whether you will get paid for the work or not, as which ever way you look at it, you must admit there could be a perception that if things went wrong, you might have diddled the figures to get your money.

4) As you state prices for compliance work fall relatively, but these are jobs carried out in the main by fairly junior staff in most cases, with little input other than oversight and review from senior staff members.  Although they are key to the financial well being of most practices, getting other higher value work as a result of these relationships is obviously a high priority for many firms.

5) It is also bogus to imply that traditional accountants are not on the constant look out to save clients money through tax planning, and development of their businesses, some are not, but many many others are and are more experienced and better placed to do so than the average unqualified.

There is nothing wrong with attempts to improve productivity and efficiency in compliance services, but if you expect clients to do more work then you may be disappointed with what you get.  We cannot agree on your bank loan scenario, I would advise against such a fee structure for a proper qualifed firm, as if the stuff ever hits the fan you can look forward to a major PII claim and potentially being struck off.

Regards

MtF