Managing the Client Conversation


As of today, February 6, Powerful Accounting has completed and filed over 25 tax returns.  The conversations with clients have been interesting to say the least. With the tax law changes, the calculations are obviously different than ever before. I also think that the taxpayers are bringing their information in quicker as a result of their concern of the unknown.  I have increased my pricing in 2019 to allow for those longer appointments, more frequent communication, and time to explain the pros and cons to the client specifically around their direct affect. Here are three of my favorite conversations so far in tax season 2019:

Conversation #1:  Price Increase

I believe in being as up front with clients as possible. No one wants to listen to an angry person on the other line AFTER you have completed their return and they don’t want to pay your invoice. After all, “we just stick numbers in places, that doesn’t take much effort,” as said by someone who has never attended college or taken a certification course in accounting. I had a few clients say that my pricing was too expensive and that they were going to go somewhere else.  Fact #1 – I was already giving them priority pricing and it was time they started to pay what the going market rate was for the return.  A week or so later, I received an email: “Hey Dawn, how much will you charge me to do my return.” My response was, the same price that made you want to go somewhere else. She replied by saying that she was afraid to go to anyone else because she had a high level of trust in my work. She will be back this year.

LESSON #1Understand your value

Provide your clients their details of the fee (by the form) and don’t think you have to defend your price. You have worked hard to get here, don’t let them bully you out of what you deserve!

Conversation #2: “Are you sure you did it right?” 

Even at the beginning of this week, I had someone come into my office and wanted me to explain how her children weren’t getting big refunds like their friends. Being the kind person that I am, I said very openly, I don’t know their friends or their friend’s situation. They did make $32,000 for their ½ year of work and now they are full time. The exemptions are gone. The standard deduction went up, and I didn’t write the tax code. After ½ hour of discussion, I recommended that they go and do the return on TurboTax and see how they do.

LESSON #2: You Know Your Stuff

Being questioned about the possibility that you may have done something wrong on a return only gives you even more power when you are proven correct. Sometimes you find clients who need to know every piece of the ‘why’ they aren’t getting a large refund. I love these challenges and take that opportunity to talk the return through with the taxpayer. 

Conversation #3: Stick with Your Process

Clients want to do things their way because they are used to it. I find that there are times where I can be flexible, such as those who want to come in and sign their engagement letters & Form 8879 in person. No problem. It changes our standard electronic process but does not change the process of gathering the engagement letter and payment authorization form prior to picking up their return to begin preparation. Sticking as close to your defined work flow is key. Don’t let your team watch you change everything for one person, they are more likely to do the same on their own.

LESSON #3: Flexible for Small and Stand Your Ground for Larger Processes

Since you have your tax season workflow processes and procedures, that does not mean you cannot waiver from them slightly. I find that having some flexibility with clients allows them to have a little bit of control. However, for the most part, you need to stand your ground. Things like an engagement letter, payment authorization, and timely responses from them are NOT changing. Communicate that to them as often as you are able.

Like I said, you will continue to handle your clients in a meaningful way, just remember though that you are the one in control. This is YOUR season and you know what is best for the client.  I would love to hear some of your stories about client conversations! 

Follow me on Twitter @dawnbrolin to keep the conversation going!

Author Bio: Dawn W. Brolin is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, and CEO of Powerful Accounting, LLC, a nationally recognized accounting, tax, forensic and fraud, IRS Representation as well as a QuickBooks consulting firm.  Dawn’s list of professional accomplishments is extensive and includes speaking and consulting for prestigious companies.  Named “Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Accounting” 2012-2017 by CPA Practice Advisor, a “Top 10 Managing Partner Elite – Great Accounting Firm Leader” in 2017 by Accounting Today, and selected as a “Top 40 Under 40” by CPA Technology Magazine. 

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