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Communicating with clients during the coronavirus crisis

Practitioners shared their tips to communicate with clients during the coronavirus outbreak in last week’s Coronavirus response Q&A.

7th Apr 2020
Commercial Production Editor AccountingWEB.co.uk
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Last Wednesday, the AccountingWEB community got together for the first live Coronavirus response Q&A. In the webinar, tax specialist Rebecca Benneyworth, Glenn Martin of Avery Martin and Lucy Cohen from Mazuma swapped notes about how they have been communicating with clients since the crisis started.

Tailored messages

Adapting your messages to your clients is essential to avoid misunderstandings. To keep everyone updated, Benneywoth recommended adapting the guidance on HMRC’s website and taking out anything that is not relevant, depending on the client.

“Here’s where you’re going to have to be very careful because it is very clear on social media that a lot of your clients who are directors of limited companies think they’re self-employed,” she said.

For those who are directors of limited companies, Benneyworth suggested taking out the self-employed part of the guidance before sending it to the client. Limiting the information you send your clients to just what they need to know in each case, can prevent further confusion.

Martin agreed that personalised communication is important. He explained how in his practice, he has opted for emailing every client individually with a personal action plan which includes what they can claim and how to furlough their staff if they need to.

Martin is sending separate emails to clients and prospects with the most recent developments. But when it comes to sending quick updates, he has created a WhatsApp group to update everybody instantly. “When someone sees an update they can share it with the rest of the group, so everybody is working together,” he said.

Email automation

However, if you work with many clients, manual processes can be too onerous and you might want to rely on technology instead.

Mazuma’s founder Lucy Cohen shared her experience with her firm, where they are using WhatsApp for desktop to let each team know what they need to communicate to clients, as well as the ticketing system Zendesk to funnel emails from each client to their accountant. The system also allows them to filter and send auto-responses, she said.

To email their clients, the firm is using Mailchimp, a tool that allows them to see who has opened them and resend emails or send another message to those clients who haven’t opened the first one yet. “In our client base you’d be surprised of how many people don’t open emails,” said Cohen. “A good email opening rate is 60% and that’s exceptional. Normally on a standard email around 40% will open it.”

Cohen has also found the tool useful because it “allows you to segregate and choose different client lists to email only sole traders, limited companies, etc and push emails to those specific people without having to go through your client list”.

But besides choosing the right tools, managing expectations is especially important during this time, Cohen said. “People are more impatient than usual to get responses for things, they think we know information prior to anybody else and we don’t – we are watching the updates on TV like everyone else.”

Therefore, she explained, it can be useful to remind clients that accountants need to wait as much as their clients for HMRC to announce updates. Sometimes, you might need to reassure them by saying you will send an email with all the relevant information as soon as it is available.

Watch the webinar on demand or join us for the next one at 9am on Wednesday 8 April, when our panellists will be looking at universal credit.

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