Over the past few years, more businesses than ever are making great efforts to be more transparent in their day-to-day practice. From food companies that document their production process to accurately reporting a corporation's financial position, businesses across the country are learning that transparency is the key to building and retaining the trust of their clients and customers.
Transparency is especially important in a tax practice because tax professionals deal with personal financial information, something that most people feel extremely protective of. There are several things you can do to boost transparency within your tax practice and build even stronger relationships with your clients.
Why client transparency matters now
Recent surveys show that the majority of consumers don't trust corporate ads, and only a small number of employees feel that executives and business owners are being honest with them. The most effective way to battle this distrust epidemic is for companies to be more transparent, thereby increasing trust. As a business owner, you can benefit from understanding the importance of being transparent in your tax practice.
Distrust is bad for business
A lack of transparency within any company can leave clients feeling swindled and misled. This is especially true for companies that have access to and control over a client's financial information. The more open and honest you are with a client, the more they will trust you with their tax work.
So, what does it mean for a tax practice to be transparent? In this era of uncertainty, some of the attributes that lead to transparency include:
- Offering high quality service
- Treating employees well
- Listening to client concerns
- Implementing feedback
- Establishing effective communication
- Developing an open and honest business culture
- Investing in data security and privacy protocol
Essentially, corporate transparency is being open and honest with a client and keeping them in the loop of what's happening with their finances. Every strong relationship is based on trust—tax professional-client relationships included. A key factor to gaining (and keeping) the trust of your clients is practicing transparency.
Transparency is all about effective communication
It's easy to decide you need to have better communication within your company and with your clients, but executing the change needed to improve the quality and method of communication is more complicated. It comes at several different points of contact when working on their case. While open communication should be emphasized on both sides, you can be the proactive one about communicating.
First, you should always be upfront about your pricing and fees. Clients will not be happy if the cost of your services comes as a surprise to them partway through the process. Discussing pricing prior to any services being performed puts you and your client on the same page from the beginning.
Another important point for maintaining transparency when working on your client's case is to notify them of any changes happening. For example, let's say after you look into your client's tax history, you discover they don't actually qualify for the tax resolution service they hoped. Let them know right away. Honesty is always appreciated in dealing with unexpected outcomes, even if the news is sometimes hard. It's also a good idea to update clients of any IRS policy change that directly affects them.
Additionally, at any point before, during, or after working on a client's case, be considerate of responding to questions, calls, or emails. Respond as promptly as possible. Clients want to feel like a priority. They won't feel prioritized if it's hard for them to get in touch with you.
According to SherpaDesk, 42% of customers who contacted a company via email or phone expected a response within one hour. As important as it is to respond to your clients promptly, however, it can also be daunting to manage back-and-forth emails and phone calls. Using a client management software can help streamline the process.
Tools such as Canopy's client portal function especially well for this kind of client management. You decide which sections your client can and cannot see in their portal—allowing you to be in control of transparency. You and your client can also upload and exchange documents. Your client can check on the status of their case—making it so they're more aware of what tasks you are completing. This will help them to see what services they're paying for. Additionally, clients can pay invoices and fill out surveys. Utilizing the many capabilities of client portals will make it so you no longer have to be stressed out by constant phone and email communication.
Transparency in social media
Beyond being proactive about starting communication with a client, maintain transparency on online platforms, as well. Check out what clients are saying about your business on social media and in reviews and address concerns or comments accordingly. If you know what clients are saying about your business, you can add to the conversation. You may even be able to improve the way you handle client transparency if you know what feedback is being given.
Online responses also give you another venue through which to answer questions and become more transparent. Online reviews, personal recommendations, rating websites, and apps often carry a lot more weight with consumers and help them shape their perceptions about a company. Good communication on public forums helps create client transparency, and more transparency leads to a client having more trust in you.
Want to learn more ways to build trust with your clients? Check out this blog post.
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