Looking for accounting client management software for your firm? Learn how Canopy can help you manage your client relationships effectively and seamlessly.
20 min read
Managing client relationships effectively is one of the most important aspects of running a successful accounting firm—after all, without happy clients, you won’t have a profitable business. But knowing where to start with client management can be an overwhelming task. So, we've put together this guide to help you improve your client management, and one big piece of that is using accounting client management software. In this guide, we will cover tips for effective client relationship management as well as what you need to know about client management software.
First thing’s first: what is client relationship management? Client Relationship Management (CRM) is the process of managing how your tax and accounting clients interact with your firm. A good CRM platform that is geared towards accountants will include detailed contact information, files, and communication history with each client. Accounting-specific CRM platforms should have an easy way for clients to upload documents and communicate with your team. Billing, payments, surveys, and more can also be part of this platform.
Client Relationship Management software helps make managing client relationships easy for your firm, creating an all-in-one accounting software that streamlines your firm.
Take a step into your client’s shoes for a moment. How do they perceive your firm? Are you easy to work with? Do your clients feel a part of your business? These are all things to consider when thinking about the relationships you’re building with your clients. While many client needs are similar, each client is fundamentally unique. And depending on your firm size, it may be difficult to create a personal one-on-one relationship with each individual. That’s why creating a process around your client relationships is fundamental to the continued success and growth of your business. Clients that have a strong relationship with your firm will stick around for years while simultaneously referring their friends and family to you.
Accounting client management software provides a central hub to track and manage client relationships and is specifically designed for accounting professionals including accountants, bookkeepers, and tax professionals.
Accounting client management software is vital to the success of an accounting firm because it creates a seamless client experience across the firm. You can see who is working on which cases and can find bottlenecks before they become an issue for your clients.
While accounting client management software (CMS) and client relationship management (CRM) software may seem interchangeable at first glance, they are different in scope. Standard CRM software is great for storing documents and being a repository for client information. However, accounting client management software was built specifically for accountants. It is tailored to your needs and the needs of your clients. Accounting client management software isn’t just about storing documents, it’s built around your workflows. Workflows like creating engagements, assigning tasks to your employees and clients, and integrating with the software you already use.
Managing the relationships with your clients is one of the most essential components of a firm’s long-term success. Effective client management helps to create loyalty and customer retention, both of which are key elements of sustainable revenue growth. So how can you make sure that you are effectively managing relationships with your clients?
Get a system in place
Pick a client management platform that is intuitive and geared towards your industry. An accounting client management software is ideal for the accounting industry, as it is developed specifically for the way you and your team want to work with clients. Getting this system dialed in is a great first step towards elevating your client relationships.
Relationships still matter
Yes, your client management platform is important. But it’s not just about software, it’s about what it allows you to do. And that is to make sure you are regularly staying in touch with your clients and cultivating strong relationships. Building customer relationships has real business implications, so don’t forget to focus on people as well as your systems.
Respect your clients time
It is easier than ever to send an automated email or a relevant message to a client. But don’t forget that you need to respect your clients time. Watch the frequency with which you communicate with clients, and don’t go overboard. If you find your clients are tuning you out, it’s probably time to dial back the communication.
Add Value for your clients
When you meet with your clients, make sure you are always prepared to bring something valuable to the table. Your clients will look forward to meeting with you, and they will increasingly lean on your expertise. This type of dynamic will usually lead to a long term relationship where opportunities to grow your partnership naturally present themselves.
Strong client relationships are formed through the use of three key skills. The use of all three skills together will help you become a trusted advisor to your clients.
It can be easy to fall into the rut of just processing paperwork for your clients. You’ve filed thousands of individual and business returns at this point. And often, they are very similar, but it’s important to remember the people behind each tax return or case. They are counting on your expertise to help them move forward. They may not fully understand the situations they are in and you have an opportunity to help teach them.
Expectations can make or break your client relationship. If your client has expectations that you don’t end up meeting, they won’t be a client for long and the relationship may sour. If you have client expectations that aren’t communicated, you may both end up frustrated. Setting clear expectations from the very first interaction can help your client-practitioner relationship start off on the right foot. An example of how to do this well is to define a process for onboarding new clients. Show them what that process looks like and help them understand what their role in all of it is.
Communicating effectively with clients is the final piece to the puzzle. This isn’t a one and done process, this is something where your whole team has to show up for every day. This is as true for the case manager as it is for the receptionist. Your team needs to be in sync so well so that your clients know exactly what is going on with their case, return, or engagement at any given time. Accounting client management software is a crucial part of keeping both your team and clients in sync.
Effective client communication doesn’t always come naturally. It takes practice for firms to learn how to communicate with a client in a professional manner. Here are a few ways to practice effective communication in accounting:
It sounds so simple, but the real world is full of distractions and there is a big difference between being on a call versus active listening. Take notes. Don’t interrupt. Minimize distractions. And don’t forget to summarize what was said to confirm you are on the same page.
Tone is Important
Tone is an increasingly important component of communication in accounting. More communication is taking place via email, text, and video calls. These environments can make it difficult to convey the proper tone and show clients you care. Read that email or text message twice before hitting send. Be engaging and active in a video call.
Clarity is Critical
To achieve effective communication in accounting, the details are so important. Make sure you are clear and concise. Paraphrase or summarize what clients are asking for in your response. This gives your client the opportunity to add additional context or details, ensuring that you are on the same page.
Preparation may be the most important component of communication in an accounting firm. Be ready to talk to your clients, with any prep work being done in advance. If you spend your meeting trying to track down forms or remember the details of a client’s particular situation, you are wasting time that could be better spent. As an added bonus, appearing ready and informed about your client will make them know they are important to you and successful communication should follow.
There are many strategies for maintaining positive relationships with your clients. One of the most important though is to take good client notes. Your accounting client management software should allow you to take internal notes about a relationship or client. These notes will help jog your memory about the client or case and reduce the need for the client to repeat information already given. Additionally, if you leave the firm or someone takes over the client relationship, they will have a record to familiarize themselves with before ever reaching out to the client, thus extending the positive relationship. A few fields to consider using for your internal notes are financial goals, hobbies or interests, birthdays, business anniversaries, life events, and the anniversary of becoming a client.
No accounting firm is immune to the inevitable relationship that takes a turn for the worse. It’s important to know how to improve client relationships at your firm. Things may go wrong, regardless of who is at fault. Dealing with the IRS can be a panic-inducing, high pressure ordeal for your clients. There are a variety of things you and your firm can work on to learn how to improve relationship management.
Pay attention to your own emotions. You can set the tone for positive interactions that improve your client relationships by taking a pause to recognize your emotions. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you, as it could negatively impact the way you approach relationship management.
Watch how you speak with your clients
Body language and tone are crucial. Think about the way your clients want to interact with you, and make sure to have empathy for their particular situation. When your clients get the feeling you are engaged and genuinely care, you can avoid or correct situations that may otherwise go off the rails.
How well do you receive feedback?
You should welcome feedback from your clients. Handling feedback well is not just critical to learning how to improve client relationships, but can help you improve the overall health of your firm.
Sometimes it’s necessary to reevaluate your client relationships and that may mean letting some clients go. There are a few things to consider before letting bad clients go in order to separate in the right way. Here are a few guidelines as you evaluate the continuation of your client relations.
Honorable mention: Document everything in your accounting client management software so you have a record on hand of the interactions and why the client was terminated.
You can read more about how to say goodbye to problem clients in this blog post.
There is always a focus on how to find clients for an accounting firm, and it’s helpful to take it a step further and think about how to find the right clients for your accounting firm. In your search for how to find new accounting clients, narrowing your focus can help you learn what you are best at as well as develop a reputation among a specific target market.
Your niche can be related to the relationships you have, the type of customers you are already working with, or any other special area you are focused on. A few ideas to help establish your niche include:
Now that you’ve found some new clients, where do you begin with building a lasting relationship?
Building client relationships starts with effective onboarding. There are many steps to this process, but the most important thing to remember is the client onboarding process gives both you and your new client time to make sure there is alignment and understanding about your values and the work to be done. During this process, you’ll have conversations about expectations—both yours and your clients. These will help you effectively communicate and make sure you create a healthy relationship from the very beginning.
Just like any relationship, your client relationships should be built on mutual trust and respect. Your clients should be able to trust you as their strategic advisor and both parties should respect each other’s time and resources. If your clients aren’t respecting your time, then additional conversations may be needed to create alignment.
Lastly, client relationships aren’t built overnight. So be willing to put in the time. Doing so will show your clients your commitment to their financial well-being over the long term.
Want to learn more about client onboarding and building client relationships? Check out these 9 Steps for Effective Client Onboarding.
Online client management software can elevate your accounting firm to new levels. The right accounting software platform for your firm can be the difference between scaling successfully and getting stuck in administrative details.
Advantages of online client management software:
Not all accounting client management software are built the same. Many are outdated or incomplete. Here are a few criteria to consider when evaluating accounting client management software.
Client management software works best when paired with practice management capabilities, so that you can run your firm, all in one place. If you are interested in seeing Canopy’s accounting software solution, schedule a demo at your convenience and witness the product in action.
Interested in reading more? Canopy has additional resources to help you learn more about accounting practice management techniques and tips to help grow your firm.