Is your practice prepared to offer world-class customer service this coming tax season?
Keep in mind that practices that struggle to keep clients often do so because they make crummy first impressions.
On the flip side of that, practices that aim to “wow” their clients tend to be successful operations that make a positive difference for their clients.
This year, approach tax season as an opportunity to blow the minds of new clients and make existing clients sit up and take notice of what a good thing they bought into when they started working with you.
Follow this action list to jumpstart your process. This list breaks down the various elements of each step in your tax season service process.
Make sure everyone involved in each step knows exactly how to perform their part, and make sure each part lives up to your world-class standards. If it doesn’t, make changes now before the season is in full swing.
Greetings: Remind all team members to offer a warm greeting to all visiting prospects and clients. If they’re not sure what to say, help them find a greeting that feels comfortable coming out of their mouths. It could be as simple as a smile and a hello, but the team member might need encouragement to use it every time.
First Names: Remember, nothing sounds as sweet as hearing our own name used in friendly greeting. Make a daily habit of reviewing a list of clients you may be expecting that day and refamiliarize yourself with first names.
Refreshment: Stock your office with a variety of beverages you can offer to visiting clients and prospects, such as a supply of cold water and soft drinks and a coffee machine with related supplies.
Reception Area: How’s it looking these days? Do walls need cleaning or patching? How about upholstery? Have you displayed pleasant pictures on the wall? If you have a Pledge to Clients or community service awards, have you displayed them here?
Contact Info Verification: Get into the habit of verifying every client’s contact information when they visit.
The Hand-Off: If your client will be first handled by someone other than the tax professional (such as a receptionist), establish and rehearse the hand-off process. Come up with a brief, informal script that can be followed that makes all parties comfortable and reflects the level of service you want to exemplify. (For example, “[Client name], I’d like to introduce you to [tax pro name]. He/she will be helping you from here. It’s been a pleasure seeing you.”)
Info Verification: Before anything else, be sure to verify the client’s information and ask about any changes since last year, such as new dependents.
Tax Interview: Asking and Answering Questions: The tax interview, of course, will be unique to each client. However, it’s worth reminding your tax pros of the importance of questions – both asking and answering. A good way to start a tax interview is by explaining why you’re going to be asking them questions – because you want to be sure they get a maximum refund. Then it’s important to listen and take notes where necessary. Equally important is answering the client’s questions, intelligently and with precision.
Request Referrals: Because you’ve given the client such a thorough, attentive tax interview, they’ll no doubt be impressed. That makes this the perfect time to ask them for a referral to a friend or family member who could use your firm’s services. Give them a referral slip to take with them and explain any incentives you may offer.
Tax Return Prep: Prepare the tax return accurately and within the time frame promised (in my practice, within 2-3 days) Let the client know the tax refund/money owed, so there are no surprises.
Enthusiasm: Is the client due a refund? Share in their excitement. “I’ve got great news, Jeff!”
Signature and Payment: Be sure the client signs in all the right places. Have red flags attached to each signature line before they arrive, and check each one before they leave. Collect payment at this time.
A Gift: A thank you gift is the icing on the cake. Choose something that your client is likely to value, such as a gift card to a local coffee shop or lunch spot.
Referral Program: This is a good time to once again ask for referrals. Offer additional referral slips and re-acquaint them with any incentives.
Thank You Again: Send a thank you card or letter and include additional referral slips.
Remember: every interaction with a client is an opportunity to make an unforgettable impression.
In addition to refining and enhancing each stage of your service, brainstorm ways to go above and beyond.
Engage your team in the brainstorm.
Have a pre-tax season lunch to share ideas.
What are your client’s challenges, big and small?
How can you make their day a little brighter, or their lives that much simpler?
Show them a level of service so unusual, they’ll want to tell everyone they know about you.