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Hard Questions on Client Service


The following sponsored content is by Joey Havens, the executive partner of Horne, LLP, an Accountingfly Firm Partner.

Do you ever wonder what people outside your circle observe when they look at you? As a profession, if we really stepped back and reflected on our client service approach, what might we see about ourselves? One observation in recent headlines is that 92% of CPAs responding to a survey by felt they were not future ready. Isn’t it plain to see we are in desperate need of conversations that help us move forward with innovation? Our profession holds many diverse opinions on what we should be doing or what some solutions might look like.

Do we believe Barry Melancon, CEO of the AICPA, who recently shared his belief that our profession would not be recognizable in five years? In seeing some of this incredible speed of change driven by technology, why wouldn’t we have similar visions? The reason this conversation is so important is that we need to establish a shared reality as a profession so we can begin to collaborate on a future direction that continues to build public trust and relevance. And in my observations, our future direction and innovation is clearly wrapped up in our perception of how we see our client service.

Do we make too many assumptions about our client service? Are we carrying legacy beliefs about our client service that blind us to inconvenient truths about our client experience?

Wouldn’t we benefit greatly from direct and honest conversations in our firms on what our client service has evolved to? Have we evolved into more technical advisors than true trusted advisors?  What do our conversations with our clients really tell us about our client service?

Let’s dive in, avoiding assumptions and owning real answers to questions that can help us have an honest conversation with ourselves—and with each other. It’s this kind of hard conversation that leads to a shared reality and a foundation where we move our firms and profession forward with skills and services that make a real impact for our clients.

I know our legacy beliefs tell us that we are doing good for our clients all of the time. But here’s an opportunity to challenge those beliefs.

The Hard Questions on Client Service:

  • Would our clients describe our service more as “cooperating and reporting” or “collaborating”?
  • Are we primarily reactive or proactive in our client experience?
  • Have we become more focused on our quality and technical competence than the actual value our clients are receiving?
  • Are our client meetings and conversations focused on the technical and regulatory aspects of our services or inquisitive to their specific needs?
  • Are we providing compliance services without engaging our clients on their needs, objectives or challenges?
  • Do our team members really know our clients’ needs, dreams, opportunities or challenges?
  • Have we helped our clients actually be better? If so, what are those examples?
  • Have we collaborated with our clients on “What’s Possible?”
  • Would our clients refer to us as inspiring?
  • What anticipatory conversations have we had with our clients that deal with future facts and their business model?

The Arbinger Institute published a book titled The Outward Mindset where they talk about how organizations can begin with an outward mindset focused on their clients’ needs and objectives, yet evolve to an inward mindset where they lose touch with their clients’ real needs

Regardless of where our firms have evolved to in our client service, embracing an outward mindset for client service is our true north as we innovate and change our business models for relevance today. Will you ask yourself these hard questions? Will you ask your partners to reflect on them and answer them with you? Will you engage in a conversation within our profession to move us forward and keep us relevant?