David Maister, a prominent consultant to primarly law firms, once said, “You’ll have more fun and success by focusing on helping other people achieve their goals than you will by focusing on your own goals.” We agree. To become this, we had to change a number of commonly used CPA firm approaches regarding pricing, customer service and responsiveness with those that reflect value, customer satisfaction and promptness.
It meant converting to new habits in key areas. For instance, we eliminated the terms “client” and “fee.” By definition those mean a person who retains a professional and pays for a service rendered. That doesn’t say much. So, we replaced them with “customer” and “price.” After all, a “customer” is one who buys often or frequently and “price” is the cost of obtaining some benefit or advantage. We want to see or hear from you often and we want you to receive a good rate of return from whatever you buy from us.
Next, we moved on to using objectives and metrics in our proposals. If we’re to help you progress, then it made sense that both of us need to work toward some agreed-upon common goals. Together we’ll develop some objectives you wish to accomplish. Then we’ll supplement these with metrics. If our definition of success is to be the same as yours, then we need to measure it the same way you do. We use both objective and subjective metrics.
Then we dropped the sacrosanct practice of hourly billing. We learned that customers don’t buy hours. When a customer meets with a CPA, they’re buying some expectation. It could be in the form of guidance, piece of mind, relief of something stressful or a more effective relationship with their finance professional. We’ll quote you an upfront fixed price for everything we do. In that price, if you choose, will be unlimited access to us. This means you can meet, call, email or text us with anything that’s on your mind. You won’t be billed for a 10 minute phone call when all you wanted was to seek our opinion on something. Customers that we’ve inherited tell us they hate this type of billing practice
We continued by incorporating a service guarantee into our work. If a CPA provides slow, terrible service, should they be paid in full when the work is done? We don’t think so. We concluded that if you’re not happy with the service, then pay what you think its worth. Granted, we’ll presume you’re delighted with the service if you allow us to complete it or you make the payments.
Finally, we started using a payment plan for all our proposals. Rather than giving you one invoice for whatever services you choose, we’ll seek your input in creating the payment terms. We’ve done proposals with as few as three installments and as many as twenty four. Just having you involved in setting the terms seems to work very well for both of us.
There you have it. Yes, this is not the normal practice from most CPAs. But for us, it’s engendered good customer loyalty.