18 Dec December 2017
Do you ever consider what your customers really want from your firm? I mean, from a client service perspective. Are you even able to completely explore this thought? I really struggle with it because I have what is commonly referred to as “The Curse of Knowledge.” The curse of knowledge is the cognitive bias that occurs when an individual, communicating with other individuals, unknowingly assumes that the others have the background to understand. (I find myself on the other end of this phenomenon every time I’m in a deep conversation with our IT director.)
You know what I mean—we start having a conversation with our clients, they’re nodding their heads in agreement, but they have no idea what we’re talking about. We’ve been providing clients the same solutions for more than 30 years: tax, client accounting, payroll. The curse of knowledge has prevented me from objectively looking at the solutions I’m offering; therefore, I keep doing the same thing year in and year out.
To put this in perspective, consider the following three scenarios:
- Document Delivery — We’ve been directing our clients to our “Client Portal” now for more than 10 years. Year after year, we get complaints that our documents aren’t easy to find and that clients have forgotten their passwords. If I could step away from the situation and ask myself, “How do my clients really want to consume document delivery from me?” my solution would take on a whole new shape. Consumers want products designed for their ease of use. In this case, I believe the consumer wants their documents delivered to the cloud platform where they focus their digital lives and assets (e.g. Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, One Drive). I believe they want a simple notification where documents are sent to them securely; and with one click, we should be able to drop the document into the consumer solution of their choosing.
- Tax Return Organizers — For 30 years, we’ve been sending out tax organizers. Our real goal has always been to remind clients that they use our firm for their tax preparation and to notify them that tax season has begun. You may not agree with this statement, but consider for a moment: How much real adoption do you get with organizers? How many clients fill out the entire organizer? I recently received a roughly 50-page document from my estate planning attorney. I shredded the document and quickly let him know that sending me that document was a terrible customer experience. In the same conversation, he let me know that each and every year I send him a tax organizer that is almost as ridiculously long. He was correct, and I was embarrassed. What are we really trying to accomplish with the whole tax organizer thing? To get the 12 questions answered for CYA? To remind clients that we still exist? To prompt them to send us their W-2s, 1099s and K-1s? If this is the case, isn’t there a better way to accomplish this and create a more positive client experience?
- Employee Pay Stubs — We’ve been pushing pay stubs to our client portals for more than 10 years, but the rate of employee utilization is dismal. Are employees really taking the time to go to my firm’s website, remember their password and view their pay stub? The world has changed; employees simply want to get a notification that they were paid. If convenient, they want to click on an app on their mobile device and view the details of their pay cycle. They would also like the convenience, on their mobile device, to update their deduction information, dependents, etc.
Seriously, it’s time to start thinking like a customer and take off our “curse of knowledge” blinders. Think about the three simple components I just reviewed with you. Wouldn’t you like to be served differently?
None of this is hard. There is no big investment required. You need only do two things: reduce friction and create simplicity. As you get ready for tax season, I know you’re thinking about how to create as little change for your office as possible. But consider this, every client you have will either walk through your door or contact you over the next four months. Wouldn’t it be nice if you made their lives just a little easier?
It’s the time of year for celebration! Remember to celebrate the accomplishments you’ve made over the past year with everyone in the firm.
Then, it’s time to get down to business!
It’s time for firms to evaluate how they are delivering documents to clients. There are many different available options, but which is correct for your firm? The four methods available to you are paper, email, client portals and file sharing. Let’s briefly cover considerations with each:
1. Paper — while this option is necessary with some clients who lag in technology adoption, this should NOT be your defacto delivery mechanism. The Modern Firm fully embraces the efficiency of a paperless workflow and cloud-based document management and storage. Be determined in your efforts to rid your firm of paper.
2. Email — this is the least secure option. Email is a primary avenue for attacks such as spoofing and phishing that result in critical data breaches. If you are exchanging client documents via email, STOP. Using email puts your firm at unacceptable risk.
3. Portals — this option has been around the accounting industry since 2001. It is a secure and trusted method that many firms use; however, portals are waning in popularity because clients are fatigued with multiple portals and passwords cluttering their digital lives.
4. File Sharing — this option is increasing in popularity. Clients receive documents and must save them on their own. This is the direction in which the industry is shifting. Check out the staff training we did on this very topic, which discusses in more detail the pros and cons of different document delivery methods. You can view the recording in the Rootworks staff training video library; just search Document Delivery.
Remember, paper should no longer be the default delivery method for client documents. (And that’s something to really celebrate!)
And here’s something more to celebrate: Liscio is a new platform that offers a secure means of client communication that can get you out of insecure workflow centered around email. What’s more, Liscio offers your firm a mobile app to serve your clients! Find out more at Liscio.me.
Cybersecurity never takes a holiday! Here are three things you can do to drastically reduce your security risk going into the new year:
- Change passwords to complex passphrases. Move to 16+ character passphrases, and use a password manager to store them.
- Put two-factor authentication on your computers. If your logins do get stolen, two-factor can still save you and your client data. Look at Duo as the best option out there.
- Take a Phishing IQ test. Sure, you’ve done one or two already, because we keep bringing it up, but phishing education is like carrying your entire office’s Starbucks order of Peppermint Mochas and Gingerbread Lattes into the office—your competency improves with practice!
Taking content marketing to a personal level
In October’s issue, we explored content marketing—marketing communication designed to connect you with customers via search engines by consistently populating your internet and social channels with a variety of relevant, useful information. Think of Google (and other search engines) as a question answering machine, and it’s easy to see how content that answers questions and helps people solve problems is what triggers connections in the realm of internet search.
Yes, content is king. But in our profession, there’s a dimension to content that goes beyond the impersonal sphere of the internet. Ours is a business of relationships, based on trust and confidence. Ultimately, there’s no more powerful way to create new relationships than meeting and interacting with people face-to-face.
In other words, don’t get trapped behind the keyboard and screen. Find ways to connect with your prospective customers face-to-face to deliver good content. Here are some tips to consider:
- Cultivate the “Heart of a Teacher.” Years ago, I was working with one of our members who was in the process of rebranding his firm. We were talking about his point of differentiation, when he said, “I approach my work and my clients with the heart of a teacher.” I don’t think anything I’ve ever heard from any member—or any entrepreneur—has had a more profound impact on me. I’ve come to realize, through this thoughtful statement, that many facets of firm leadership and building client relationships are summed up in this idea of viewing your role as one of educator and teacher. Think about it—who, other than your parents, has had the most significant and lasting impact on your own life? Most of us would say it’s our teachers. If being a teacher comes naturally to you, great! If not, find ways to cultivate those skills; they serve to strengthen so many aspects of building and growing a business.
- Create educational events. Invite a small group of your best prospects to join you for educational sessions. The content can comprise a variety of topics: tax planning, understanding KPIs, and even implementing technologies such as Zoom or Slack. Put your finger on the pulse of your business community and understand the kinds of content they value most. If your office space isn’t configured to handle small group events, consider partnering with an organization such as your local chamber of commerce or a trade association to host your event.
- Leverage traditional media channels to promote your events. Reach out to your local news outlets (i.e. newspaper, radio and TV stations, community magazines, etc.), and let them know about your event; it’s a newsworthy item for the business community, and you’re likely to receive publicity through news stories, links, calendar listings, etc.
Cultivate the heart of a teacher, extend your content into face-to-face venues, and you’ll realize a powerful way to begin building business relationships.
“Welcome Home” to all members we saw in Sarasota at our RW Inspire conferences!
December 19—Staff Training: ACS Payroll Year End Best Practices, Part 2 of 2 (Part 1 was on December 8; the recording is in the Staff Training Video Library).
December 20—Staff Training: Getting Ready for Busy Season, Part 1 of 2
December 27— Staff Training: Getting Ready for Busy Season Part 1 of 2 (repeat of December 20 session)
January 5—Staff Training: Getting Ready for Busy Season, Part 2 of 2.
January 10—Staff Training: Getting Ready for Busy Season, Part 2 of 2 (repeat of January 5 session)
Register for these and other events at Grow.Rootworks.com
We’ll announce the rest of the January and February training schedule soon.