How successful accountants are solving the communication challenge
Your ability to communicate clearly, effectively and efficiently sits at the core of your capacity to successfully serve clients as an accountant.
If your communication strategy and technique isn’t as effective as possible, you could miss opportunities, potentially lose clients, and fail to deliver accurate and valuable advice.
As communication avenues become more diverse, siloed, fractured and impersonal, what are successful accountants and advisers doing to ensure excellence in communication?
The convoluted communication landscape
It’s no secret that modern modes of communication have undergone rapid change. In no small part, COVID-19 has acted to accelerate the impersonal and multi-channel communication landscape even further.
While communication with clients used to be either face to face, on the phone or through email, we now see the sprouting of a cornucopia of communications platforms and methods.
Video conferencing, workflow apps, social media, text, and professional messaging solutions of all kinds have migrated into our communications. Not only do we see diversity in communication formats, but there are also usually several iterations and preferences within each one.
The communication options presented to us are seemingly inexhaustible. How do you cut through?
The solution? Direct the conversation and the platform
- To cut through this jungle of options, lead by example and offer limited communication options.
- Avoid email where possible. It has a low open rate and visibility.
- Prioritise chat and instant messaging platforms which offer easy file attachments and snappy back and forth interactions.
- If a very brief and important reminder is needed, use SMS, which has incredibly high open rates.
- Choose your platforms, inform your clients, and stick to it. This also helps workflows as you can centralise communication between all clients.
- Create a calendar of communication times and be the driver of initiating these conversations.
- Complement your chosen platform with video conferencing or in-person meetings to ensure a personal touch, which will naturally deepen client relationships.
Getting back to basics
The accountancy game revolves around clear and concise communication more than many realise. You may very well excel in your vocation and offer high value advisory skillsets and the capacity to add significant client value.
Where this can all fall over is in your communication skills. If you can’t communicate effectively and succinctly, your value is diminished, and your firm will suffer alongside your clients. Fortunately, any shortcomings can be easily rectified with short courses and peer review.
Sign up to a short course on effective and concise business writing. Many firms will encourage knowledge acquisition and there’s a plethora of affordable and brief courses to fill any gaps in your written communication skills.
Similarly, there’s a large range of short courses aimed at improving your verbal communication ability. Peer assessment with a trusted colleague, manager or mentor is also an excellent avenue.
Tips to increase communication effectiveness
No matter how adept and proficient you may be at communication, there’s always an aspect you can sharpen even further. Here are a few things to keep in mind, whether you’re on the phone, video chat or messaging.
Never try to outsmart your client or fall into the trap of thinking you should subtly lead or manipulate. You will not always be the bearer of good news. Be upfront and direct with your clients at all times. They want trusted business advice and naked honesty, not an illusion of rainbows.
Learning how to simplify a complex idea is an incredibly valuable skill. Keep messages short, simple and to the point. If you can say something important in three words instead of 10, do it. If you can keep advice snappy, dot pointed or in short sentences or paragraphs, all the better.
The more important a message is, the more times it needs to be reiterated. Otherwise it will be lost in the storm of information that people have to process each day.
Someone’s business is at stake every time you conduct client work. They’ve poured their soul and bank account into this venture. Respect this fact and, as a rule, communicate with others as you’d like them to communicated with you.
Professional doesn’t equal corporate robot. People will respond instinctively to your natural tones over what is sensed as a confected ‘business identity’.
Be conscious of the various personality types you’ll encounter and adjust your style accordingly.
Even go so far as to keep notes in your CRM as to individual client’s preferred methods and styles.
If you receive client concerns, be sure to validate them and then contextualise the issue into a broader picture. Paint a larger picture of your advice or responses to client issues, don’t deflect and act defensively.
As a parting note – when working with busy business clients, speak when you have information to impart, a point to make, or questions to ask, never for the sake of it. As Plato once said:
“Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.”
Alex Alexandrou is General manager – operations at Reckon.