Few new employees have the skill to select the appropriate way to speak with clients. It is developed over time, through trial and error and hopefully through internal training and coaching.
Watch the Tone Used
Imagine this, a client has not responded to requests for additional information. So a Manager says, in an irritated voice, to a junior staff person, “call him/her and say we are still waiting, they must get the balance of their information to us”. Influenced by the tone used by the Manager, the staff member calls the client.
Or, they may not call, if they feel inhibited making calls to clients. So despite the direction, they may try emailing first. Then when nothing happens, knowing they have to call, the staff member mentally prepares, they psych themselves up to be stern. Using an authoritative tone they say something like, “you must send it to us, otherwise you will be fined and it could cost you a lot of money”.
At the same time, a Partner or Director walking past hears the conversation and comments the staff member does not know how to speak to clients, then says no more calls from that staff member.
Telling a Client They Must Sign
In another situation, a new manager from outside the profession decided to take an Engagement Letter to a client for sign off. So a meeting was arranged, the new manager drove to the client premises, produced the letter, walked the client through it and then said, “you must sign here”.
The new manager had not stopped to first chat with the client, had not asked about the client’s business had not built any rapport with the client. So by this time the client was feeling unhappy and when told he had to sign, responded “no I don’t have to sign, take your letter, I will go to a different accountant”.
The firm lost a long standing client of considerable value to the firm.
Take Time for Pleasantries
I remember when I was a very junior accountant. I would end up with a list of client queries, the Manager would invite the client into the office to answer the queries. I sat in the Manager’s office clutching my query list whilst the Manager chatted with the client about golf, of all things. I used to fret as I was trying to rush, wanted my queries answered and was mindful of the time taken. I had no idea about the need to settle the client, build rapport, explain what we were going to do, etc. I learnt, but it took ages.
It will probably also take ages for your junior staff to learn how to speak with clients, if you don’t explain what you are doing and why.
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