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In today’s episode of ‘From the eLearning Trenches,’ we asked one of our learners to reflect on key difficulties in managing client expectations, the scheduling and completion of client work and discuss what could be done to address these issues

We have consistent issues with a small number of clients who do not seem to respond well to our requests and have unrealistic expectations of us. We need to address these issues now rather than live with the expectation that nothing will change.

The underlying issues 

  • High expectations including quick turnarounds without compromising quality. 
  • Meeting these expectations while ensuring accuracy and compliance is a challenge
  • Enormous amount of missing information
  • It takes a long time to respond to our requests
  • Complex and time-consuming work

To address these issues, we can take the following steps

  • Establish clear communication channels – Clearly communicate the required documentation and timelines upfront
  • Set realistic expectations – Educate the client about complexities and time requirements. Manage their expectations by explaining the potential challenges and providing estimated timelines for completing the work.
  • Provide guidance and support regarding the specific documentation and information required for the work to be completed
  • Prioritise organization and planning – Develop a detailed work plan and schedule
  • Proactive follow-up – To ensure they understand the status of work and understanding requirements
  • Maintain a skilled team – Assign work according to their skills and knowledge
  • Keep good rapport with clients – Seek feedback on how to enhance communication, streamline documentation, and expedite the process

Feedback from our experts

Traditionally, accountants in public practice have been reluctant to really set and manage expectations in relation to workflow. Scheduling of work is at client discretion, clients are not followed up proactively when information has been requested, clients are not proactively advised of progress with their work. 

Professionals providing advisory services In a ‘project’ environment would usually take control of the relationship from day 1. Milestones would be established. Project status would be advised on a regular basis. There would be a sense of ‘collaboration’ with the client regarded as a key member of the project team.

As accounting firms transition from a predominantly compliance-focused approach to workflow to a focus on advisory services and support, clear ongoing communication with client becomes essential. This is usually reflected in a service agreement that outlines how communication will take place and who is responsible, especially when managing client expectations. 

A key challenge many firms face is in ‘re-educating’ clients who have engaged with the firm in the same way, year after year, without seeing any consequences for their actions. The best way to address this is to ‘draw a line in the sane’ at the beginning of the new financial year. Let clients know that the firm is taking a more proactive approach to communication and engagement, starting with annual re-engagement, workflow scheduling and regular follow-up. 

It’s also critical that employees are trained to take a more proactive approach to client communication. Establish behavioural standards and monitor progress with direct feedback from clients through a formal feedback process. 

Does your firm have clients who essentially manage the relationship? What can your firm do to take control of the relationship and start managing client expectations?   

This assessment task and response is taken from the Responsible Workflow Manger eLearning Course. Click here to explore this course

Also, take a look at the Client Concierge eLearning Course

Discover the pulse of our eLearning community as we unveil daily feedback from enrolled learners. Exciting times ahead as we share this valuable information with the accounting, advisory, and administrative experts in public practice!