From time-to-time, I get asked questions which provoke an excited response in me. The following is a typical example…
If you were looking for an accountant what would be your criteria? Fees, size of practice, location, presentation, service, or maybe something else?
To me this is an easy one to answer! Never mind any of those. PERSONALITY and EMPATHY. I want an accountant who is friendly, never condescending, never critical, always positive, always constructive, and who REALLY understands my situation and does what they can to help me achieve my long-term goals.
I couldn’t care less what that person charges (within reason and industry norms, obviously) or where they are based. Their practice is almost certainly going to be tiny (because I wouldn’t have confidence in the individual relationship otherwise), I’d certainly be put off by any kind of slick presentation (presentation time is time taken away from them getting to understand me) and what the heck do you mean by ‘service’? They are an accountant – for goodness sake – so they know their stuff technically – this isn’t like brain surgery – we have a year to sort my finances and I’m not going to die if they don’t reply within 24hrs though, of course, I expect them to respond – personably and 100% accurately.
My use of the phrase “what the heck” isn’t meant to be critical. Of course, we can go into detail about what we expect in availability, responsiveness etc. That said, I come across too many examples of organisations where these are spelled out as if they are exceptional when I would consider them part of the basic package.
One of the charities I’m involved with has an accountant (http://www.yourtaxoffice.co.uk) and I am frequently amazed at his responsiveness – he must have even bigger bags under his eyes than I do mine.
In this digital day and age, in many industry sectors I’m not sure that these things need spelling out, expectations are high, and failure to deliver means people move on. That said, in the traditional professions (law, accountancy, medicine) people generally don’t chop and change… why? Because of the PERCEIVED personal relationship built up over time.
Interestingly, there are some industry sectors where 24/7/365 has become a negative – the motor servicing one, for example, where the convenience of 24/7/365 has been seen through by many people who now expect to be charged more there than they would be elsewhere.
I do wonder how many people ask their accountant for advice during the year? Are we mixing the functions of book-keeping and accountancy perhaps? Maybe, if this is true in your case, “Arthur Sixpence Accountancy and Book-keeping” would be a more enticing description?
Anyway, as I say, personality, empathy, (and a positive attitude) are far more important to me. Perhaps, “Arthur Sixpence, warm and friendly, tax and accounts” would work?
End of story! Next question?
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