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  • Alexandra Bond Burnett

5 steps for accountants to calm, share value and save time communicating with clients

Updated: Sep 8, 2020

Last week I hosted a webinar on speaking to anxiety - and this was one of the questions we received from the audience:

I've found it difficult carrying on the day to day work whilst also taking calls from worried clients but also attempting to be pro active and contacting clients first. Any tips to deal with this?

This is a great question. Accountants are busier than ever, not only keeping up with the day to day, and perhaps a change in systems if they weren't cloud based, but also keeping in touch with clients and government updates daily.

What we need to be able to do is broadcast to your clients, keep it personal and have time to think at the end of the day.

In this article I discuss how you can effectively communicate by:

  1. Gathering your community to one point of contact

  2. Showing your human side, less is more and vulnerability brings us together

  3. How to create quick updates on a regular basis

  4. Create more in depth dedicate information sessions where clients can interact and ask questions.

  5. Allow clients access to you directly on your terms.

You can of course use your mailing list, but your risk with written communication is that you'll end up with a corporate mail-out that clients feel overwhelmed by. Emails are great for connecting data - but not for human connection. The human connection is what the world needs to survive right now.

Step 1) Create a community for your first wave of communication

Step one - build a dedicated space where clients can access updates when they need to gives them a sense of control.

A community has two benefits - you get to update clients in one place, and clients feel supported reassured by being in a 'tribe'.

If you haven't already, create a space where your clients can head to when they need to hear from you. Slack and Facebook groups work really well for this as you can have tags and channels for different information and use a mix of written, audio and visual information.

2) You're only human, after all

Managing expectations and being honest about whats happening with you will save you a ton of time. Your #vulnerability will be a powerful communication tool to help you manage. This pandemic means we've been thrown together - Humans together. Show them your human side.

Acknowledge your own feelings will help you connect to your clients. We will understand if you're going to be late replying. We understand if you have a down day. But you need to share where you're coming from, and set the expectation. If you don't know something - be confident enough to say that and set the expectation of when you will know.

  • Set a time of day they can expect an update (something that you are sure to meet, even if there isn't a government update. Share what you've been up to, what you've seen that's interesting - keep the conversation going)

  • Use a calendar tool so clients can book a call at a time that suits you. Or open up your diary in time blocks and schedule calls. Be sure to note who isn't responding or answering emails and calls. This is often a sign of the client ostriching and not coping. This can lead to depression, but also unpaid invoices.

Reissuing government updates isn't enough, for you or your client

Your most important job right now is to take all that tax and grant jargon and turn into something that informs and reassures FAST. Your clients also feel time poor.

Keep it simple.

What they want from you is a short, sharp translation of what they can and can't do, and what they do next.

Get to the point by making them feel calm and prepared

This pandemic means we are in a state of high emotions. The world is out of it's comfort zone and that means we are thrown into a fear response. Fear is a sneaky emotion it lurks under so many initial symptoms that appear first: anger, aggression, apathy, depression, over compensation to name a few.

What does this mean for you?

First acknowledge the initial emotion.

"I know you're angry/trying to keep active/ feeling lost..."

Then speak to what lies beyond.

What clients want from you is a short, sharp translation of what they can and can't do, and what they do next. What they NEED from you is reassurance and guidance.

3) Make short video updates daily

Video is powerful as we get the face to face connection that we are craving. We see YOU and what your values are.

Creating a video can be quick, informative and emotionally connected all in one go.

To read up on what equipment look at my video kit list blog here

... and how to be authentic on video in my blog for Practice Ignition, here

Post videos in your community space, Send them via email or Whatsapp. You could also have a you tube channel that clients and non clients can subscribe, or uploaded on your dedicated COVID-19 webpage.

What do I post?

We need to acknowledge fears and concerns. Fears can be answered with these questions:

What will this cost me?

What will this reward me?

Reply to those questions and you'll find you'll speak to the human and the business in one go. You don't need to post anything too technical all the time. This is about showing up. Tell them whats working, what isn't - how you;re managing in lock-down. Let them in to see more than updates from No.10.

4) Go Live and give more details

Video and you tube is great for that short form response:

" Here is what you need to know, and here is what it might cost or reward you"

But not great for getting out lots of detail. Live video communication is perfect for longer information sessions and they are interactive.

This can be in the form of a #webinar or #facebooklive

Going live is unnerving but an incredible way for you to show up, be present and share your knowledge.

Quick tips:

  • Bullet point your takeaways

  • Write down one thing you want them to feel after the event

  • Have a document with any references, links or documents ready to go afterwards (or, post them in your community)

  • Tell them that you'll answer questions at the end and they can post in advance or during the session. Lives also mean the video is available on replay for those that need them.

Listen to the podcast episode "How to create a fantastic video conference experience" to find more about creating a engaging webinar / zoom session

To recap:

  1. Gather your community to one point of contact

  2. Show them your human side, less is more and vulnerability brings us together

  3. Create quick updates on a regular basis

  4. Create more in depth dedicate information sessions where clients can interact and ask questions.

  5. Allow them access to you. Create a time block to speak with clients on the phone or zoom. Ask them how they are. Call the clients that aren't responding - they might be the ones most in trouble.

If you would like more help, join my Facebook community Communication for Evolving Leaders where I post interviews, updates and tools to help you communicate in this time of change.

Test your communication skills at https://speakingambition.scoreapp.com/




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