From the Frontlines: Celebrating the Wins

August 3rd, 2020 by Rebecca Mihalic 4 minutes read

It’s crunch time for many accountants out there. The pandemic has had a widespread effect on the global economy, and as such, businesses are feeling the squeeze. Accountants around the world are now having to allay their clients’ fears about the future—all while contending with a host of new legislative changes.

In a recent ‘Conversations over Coffee’ catch-up, I spoke with Aly Garrett, founder of All In Advisory and one of our Top 50 Women in Accounting, about how she’s been looking out for her customers during this uncertain period.

Ongoing uncertainty

Accountants are trusted business advisors. When clients need help, they turn to us for answers. But it’s not been all that simple recently. Jamie Beresford at Practice Protect puts it this way, “We’re financial doctors and our clients all suddenly got really sick and started dying—however, in the beginning, we just didn’t have the medicine to help them yet”.

Different countries have taken different responses to offset the economic impact of the pandemic. In the US and Canada, for example, individual citizens have benefited from stimulus packages, while in Australia, the government has had a fluid response to the crisis with a range of measures in their economic support package.

“It was such a rollercoaster. At the start, I was chatting to my clients about the prospect of mass layoffs, the likes of which have never been seen in the tourism and hospitality industries (my niche areas). A few weeks later, the government announced the JobKeeper Act and temporary cash flow boosts for certain businesses. I was suddenly having to go back to my clients and tell them that they may in fact be able to hold onto their employees—it was just such a confusing time all round”.

More than anything, clients want their accountants to have answers. The answers may not always be reassuring, but they need to feel like their financial advisors are on top of everything. The impromptu legislative changes have made it hard for accounting practices to keep up—which has made it nigh on impossible to give clients the level of care that they need right now.

Novel solutions

That said, it’s not all doom and gloom. We quickly found at businessDEPOT that one-to-many communications were the best way to update our clients. We sent out newsletters as soon as we had the relevant information to hand, and scheduled webinar after webinar where hundreds of people would join to have their questions answered.

While Aly differed slightly in her approach, deciding to record videos instead of hosting webinars, she entirely agreed with this: “It’s seriously difficult (if not impossible) to update everyone on a client-by-client basis and then also complete all the necessary work that you have going on. Our team has therefore put lots of effort into creating Loom videos, updating the website, sending out emails, and creating infographics—the whole shebang.”

Right now, it seems like nobody has all the answers. However, if you make a concerted effort to stay in touch with all your clients and to let them know the lay of the land as soon as you have any updates, then that’s all they can ever ask for.

Unexpected results

It can be easy to just think of these updates as crisis communications, or damage limitation. But it’s bigger—and more rewarding—than that. Both Aly and I have won clients during this period. As Aly states, “Some of my clients would talk to fellow business owners who told them, ‘Oh, my accountant hasn't even contacted me yet’. They’d then tell them about what we’ve been doing, the content that we’ve been producing, and they’d share our details with these business owners. We just started doing it to help our existing client base, but it’s actually helped us win more business, too”.

On top of the increased client base, Aly has also noted that her team’s productivity has skyrocketed in recent months. “Everyone’s adopted this kind of ‘heads down’ approach that has been amazing for the practice as a whole. It’s allowed Lee and I to take care of handling all the comms—we’re the most senior, we’re used to answering tough questions, and so it works really well. We couldn’t do this without the rest of our team though, they’ve been brilliant”.

Hopefully this has given you some ideas about how to take care of your customers throughout this unsettling period. Whatever you do, remember to always be honest, communicate any new updates clearly, and remember that we’re all in this together.

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