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In today’s episode of ‘From the eLearning Trenches,’ we asked one of our learners to review their firm’s processes for client engagement. What could be done to encourage more communication and real engagement with clients during this process?

Learner Reflection

Our Current Client Engagement process appears to be very basic:

  • Organise a meeting with clients to identify areas that they require assistance with, this is generally undertaken by the practice owner or Senior Accountant;
  • A standard Letter of Engagement is sent out to the client detailing what we require to complete their work, what specific legislations we operate under, this letter is more a technical letter confirming our areas of expertise and responsibilities;
  • if the client agrees to come on board, the Letter of Engagement is signed and work is commenced.

A large number of our client are small entities who don’t require ongoing support throughout the year, potentially random assistance may be requested, this may or may not be charged.  Depending on the request and the clients support over previous years or potential for future work.


Moving forward I believe that clients should be notified of timing expectations, set pricing for specific tasks, areas of potential price increases for additional work (example – poor record keep-keeping / crypto transactions).

 If a client turns up with a plastic bag full of receipts and no summary of costs, they should be charged accordingly for this level of complacency.   A lot of the initial meeting is about the client and what they need, we should be providing the client with more information on what we need from them.

Feedback from our experts

Many accounting firms still treat client engagement as a compliance process. There is a requirement to document the scope and fee for service, also the terms under which the matter will be completed. The standard engagement letter is little more than a contract of work between accountant and client. It’s not surprising that when the service is framed as a ‘transaction,’ there is little interest in anything except the outcome. The service is commoditised, and the client has control of the relationship.

The transition from a transactional to advisory relationship requires that the engagement is presented as a service agreement, with communication requirements and mutual commitment clearly outlined. This means that time needs to be spent outlining how the relationship will work on an ongoing basis. Perhaps this is not required for a simply individual tax return, however the service provider should always be aware that by providing a commoditised service, the opportunity to really engage with the client and add value is lost.

In this example, the learner talks about tailoring the fee based on the quality of the information that the client provides the firm up front. Clearly, clients who provide poor records should pay more for the service than clients who provide excellent information up front. Often, it’s the former client who is the most demanding. The best solution is to provide the client with options up front, based on the level of service and support they will require. Then, it’s much easier to have the conversation about scope of work down the track.

In a progressive accounting firm, it’s critical to  establish a formal onboarding process for all clients. The administrative team should manage this process with support from client managers.

How does your firm manage client engagement? What could be improved?

This assessment task and response is taken from the Ultimate Practice Manager eLearning Course. Click here to explore this course

Also, take a look at the Client Concierge eLearning Course

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