3 min read

Best Practices to Next Practices: How to Gauge & Assuage Client Fears

Best Practices to Next Practices | Botkeeper

Gretchen Pisano sat down, metaphorically, with Botkeeper’s Jody Padar to examine uncertainty as it relates to the intimate relationship between CPA and client. At this stage in the COVID-19 trajectory, fear and anxiety are transforming otherwise level-headed decision makers into erratic, uncertain, paralyzed citizens.

I cannot see very far out into the future, but I know how to put one foot in front of the Next. — Gretchen Pisano

The CPA’s role in the midst of fiscal uncertainty is to help batten down the hatches and prepare for what comes next, which begs the obvious: how can anyone know what's next? Uncertainty and not knowing are a CPA’s worst nightmare. 

Gretchen, with her background in leadership consulting and human psychology, walks Botkeeper’s very own Radical CPA through the tumult.


People in Fight-or-Flight Mode Behaving in Unmappable Ways 

As CPAs, we feel we intuitively know our clients and can gauge their unique relationship to financial risk and their tolerance for market fluctuation. However, what CPAs are seeing now, in the face of a global health crisis that is grinding our economy to a halt, are people in fight-or-flight mode behaving in unmappable ways. 

While the CPA’s job is to allow their clients to realize financial health and growth, this is no easy task when best practices no longer apply, and the avenues of recourse provided by the government do not have the necessary agility to assuage mounting fear and instability. 



Identify a Client’s Risk And Anxiety Tolerance, And Everything Will Follow From There

The current scenario seems to lend itself to a seismic shift in how CPAs serve client needs and the kind of information CPA firms need to collect from a client to determine precisely what those needs are. Gretchen helped us at Botkeeper determine the key to effective financial advising during a crisis: identify a client’s risk and anxiety tolerance, and everything will follow from there. 

Clients are going to be putting pressure on their CPAs to tell them what to do to protect them from this storm. What CPAs can do is advise based on what they know. At the end of the day, the CPA’s grasp of the legislative tax and financial aid materials that the government is pumping out is going to make more sense to them than it will to a layman. 

What clients want is to have a conversation with their CPA that feels like they're talking to somebody who knows a little bit more than they do about this. You will be able to advise on risk points and the benefits. What you’ll find is that some people will want to move really fast toward action because they have a high risk tolerance or because they have a low anxiety tolerance. In order to understand your client, CPAs must determine the individual client comfort zone.


First Steps in Rebuilding Best Practices

First Steps in Rebuilding Best Practices | Botkeeper

As a first step, CPAs will have to recreate a current-state client risk assessment. Gretchen believes that this can be produced through asking very simple, human questions:

How are you today?
What is most important to you to protect in the next X number of months? 
Where would you like to be when we come out the other side of this? 
What's keeping you up at night?
What jars you awake at 3 a.m.?
What is your cash flow like? 
What would you be willing to let go of?

Where is there new value that you would want to try to create?

As an advisor, you can take these data points and proceed knowing what it is that you need to protect.


The CPA’s Job Is Not to Be a Fortune Teller

From there, Gretchen is a strong believer that providing people autonomy of choice is empowering and gives a sense of control. The CPA’s job is to provide subject matter expertise. 

What we can offer is a better understanding of the implications of financial documents and law. The best and most helpful thing a CPA can do in this atmosphere is provide a rough blueprint of several different options and potential outcomes in terms of benefits and risk. This information gives the client autonomy and power of choice. And right now, Gretchen insists, clients are going to want that. They’re “going to want to have a sense of being the mistress of their own destiny.”

Stay tuned for how to work with these data points…we would love any suggestions or comments on how CPAs are engaging with clients in these difficult times. It’s up to us to create Next Practices together!

For more insight, listen to the whole interview here! 

Indeed, these are trying times, and everyone's looking for a little guidance on how they can best stay focused and move forward. It's not easy, but with the right information and tools at your disposal, success is possible. To that point, we're holding a free presentation on how Botkeeper is working with accounting professionals to help them and their clients achieve their goals. Click below to join us!



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