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Beyond the numbers: the need for human connection in accountancy

July 10, 2020

As we begin to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, many accountancy firms are entering a phase of reflection. They are taking time to consider what they did differently, what worked, what didn’t and what that means for their customer experience.

The best organisations will see this time as an opportunity to look their brand in the face and be a part of a new conversation.

They will focus on how their clients experienced the unprecedented turbulence of 2020 and reflect on how well their clients’ needs were met.

A new survey, conducted by PracticeWeb with Insight101, to find out how small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) feel their accountants performed during the COVID-19 crisis, provides a springboard for a response that goes beyond the numbers.

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Communication is key

So, as we approach the ‘new normal’, what are clients looking for in their accountant?

An overwhelming 87% of those surveyed put communication skills in the top three most important characteristics for an accountant to have.

49% described good communication skills as the most important characteristic for a successful accountant.

Customer experience is quickly becoming the key priority above cost and the product itself (Walker Study) and according to Forbes, 86% of clients are willing to pay more for a great experience.

Now, more than ever before, customer experience is more important than knowledge and numbers.

Communication, and an ability to support and connect with clients in a meaningful, helpful and human way, must be at the heart of the future vision for accountancy. It is the key to achieving success as a sustainable firm.

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The shape of human connection

The rise of digital personal accounting and the need for comfort and security during the pandemic has created an opportunity for accountants to adapt and develop a brand that fills the gaps with a human touch.

But what does this look like?

Successful accountants increased communication with their clients during the COVID-19 crisis.

In our survey, 69% said their accountant had contacted them, with 27% saying they received a phone call.

In a crisis, a personal phone call or email will go a long way to cementing good customer service. Moving forward, developing a human connection can take a variety of forms.

Emails, phone calls, regular updates via blogging and social media and even virtual events and videoconferencing all provide ways to increase connection, support clients and position you as a helpful brand.

Accounting firms that successfully built and maintained deeper relationships with clients during the COVID-19 crisis did so by being consistently visible and available online.

For example, Sharon Pocock of Kinder Pocock provided support, advice and reminders through an active Facebook group, ran ‘Small Business Weekly Check-in’ events and ‘Survive & Thrive’ webinars. Peter Watkins at Blue Penguin connected with clients through regular, relevant posts on LinkedIn and other platforms, ensuring he remained both visible and helpful.

Through these channels you can answer questions that Google can’t, offer reassurance, tailored advice and hold the door open for your customers.

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Live your brand values

The foundations for these practical ways to stay connected with your clients are your company’s brand values. If your brand values lack substance and authenticity, a solid customer relationship is not sustainable.

Our survey revealed that a third of responses from SMEs said their values didn't match their accountant and that 44% of respondents felt unable to say their accountant lived up to their firm’s brand values, whether stated or implied.

So, there is a disconnect: some firms aren’t successfully communicating their brand values, or those values aren’t rooted and translating into good customer service.

If clients are to love a brand (and yes, emotion is key) they will love it through the people they interact with.

Knowing what your accountancy firm really stands for, then making sure that vision and personality is embedded and permeates every aspect of your customer experience, is vital.

Insight101 can help you reflect upon, define, align and share your brand values so that you can move forward forging lasting relationships with clients, giving them the optimum customer experience, as well as the numbers.

Get in touch now for an initial consultation.

Philippa Haynes

Founder, Insight 101

Email: philippahaynes@insight101.co.uk

Telephone: 01278 393970

Mobile: 07990 796543

www.insight101.co.uk