Tax Day has come and gone, once again leaving CPAs from coast to coast recovering from the annual mid-April scramble of clients who procrastinated until the last possible second to complete their taxes.
More than 13 percent of Americans, or roughly 41.4 million people, filed their taxes during the week of April 15, with another 12 percent missing the deadline. That’s about 80 million people who waited until the 11th hour or worse. For now, most CPAs can breathe a little easier and enjoy the moment.
While the last-minute fire drill that is April in accountancy may be incurable, proactive engagement before and after tax season can help improve client preparation and retention. CPAs can better leverage technology and utilize their websites as communication channels to combat the “battle of the taxes” and reach a peace accord before rolls around again.
These five simple, yet effective, tips for utilizing communication strategies in conjunction with their business’ website can help improve CPA engagement with clients year-round, further strengthening that relationship and helping accountants to get clientele to prepare for tax time further in advance.
1. Encourage new clients to connect.
Often, online visitors need help to initiate interaction. An easy way to encourage engagement is to offer a free consultation or review a new client’s previous year’s returns to see if any deductions were overlooked. However, simplicity is key, no matter what the call-to-action may be. Asking a prospect to perform too many additional steps or requirements will diminish their interest in connecting.
It’s imperative to incorporate widgets or buttons with a clear, simple call-to-action on your website and emails to enable potential new clients to immediately engage with you. Giving the gift of your expertise at the proverbial push of a button will drive client acquisition and encourage proactive habits, which can pay off come next year’s tax season.
Through this strategy of using automated, user-friendly online communication tools, you can optimize and simplify the prospect-conversion process – allowing your business to double the total number of contact requests it can take in. By expanding your contact web-based engagement capabilities, it also allows potential leads to reach out to you on their own time and easily interact online when it’s convenient for them.
2. Nurture the client relationship.
Email marketing is a great example of a tool that continues to be one of the best for nurturing and extending client relationships, and ensuring clients return again and again. Remember: Email marketing should be segmented and tailored to a specific audience around a certain topic, as not all clients are alike.
Email campaigns alerting clients of upcoming deadlines, changes in tax policy, and seasonal tips can prove cost-effective in both time and resources. Even something as simple as a friendly year-end reminder to book appointments early and review tax documents – with a scheduling link embedded in the email – can pay dividends. This trick helped a Seattle-based CPA firm increase response rates by 70 percent and reduce scheduling coordination by more than 150 hours. As a bonus, automated confirmations and reminders virtually eliminated no-shows.
3. Deliver exceptional service.
For most firms, staying connected with clients usually means a phone call or meeting. But, staying connected after-hours is essential to delivering unparalleled service and differentiating your business from the pack. Developing a streamlined strategy to stay engaged is critical for your business to stay top of mind. Consider a holistic approach to engagement by offering clients the ability to reach you via phone, email, website, mobile, and social media platforms. You can ensure optimal interaction and engagement with each client and prospect by providing them the option to communicate with you on their terms.
For example, we’ve had a CPA land a prominent client while at a tire store simply by responding quickly to a new prospect inquiry text notification through his website. The prospective client was so impressed with the level of responsiveness and service that they hired him immediately. That said, delivering exceptional service doesn’t end with a speedy response.
4. Secure the relationship.
Accountants are stewards of their clients’ most sensitive information. Offering services that reflect this trust only deepens the client relationship. One way of mirroring this level of trust is by providing clients with a secure, self-service portal to share sensitive information throughout the year. Such a portal ensures privacy, tracks and records transactions, and provides exclusivity between client and advisor. It also affords heightened convenience that is often preferred to paper and other digital media storage. Plus, these portals can also include a call-to-action that can prompt increased interaction, resulting in scheduling appointments, online payments, document sharing, and more.
5. Build on momentum with technology.
Weaving in online engagement capabilities, like web-based scheduling, online payments and invoicing, and online document sharing, can complement all traditional client interactions by allowing a business to automate customer management processes while enhancing engagement. These tools can also encourage re-engagement by making interactions easier and improving customer satisfaction.
All this is to say that CPAs can set their practices up for success by being proactive with their client base year-round. Seemingly small wins, such as a better-prepared client in April, one less hour spent organizing client data, or a well-timed email, can all serve as a catalyst to improve the efficiency and quality of your practice. Word of mouth is important, but supplementing that with strategic outreach can have a snowball effect that multiplies the impact of your activities, making it possible for any CPA to up-level their practice simply by leveraging available online tools.