There’s a lot of chatter in accounting circles and on accounting social media about the importance of client advisory services. Much of the messaging focuses on how CAS is the future of the industry and should be considered a huge money-making opportunity for accounting firms.
While all that is true—and truth be told, we’ve contributed to those storylines—we know that CAS isn’t something a firm achieves overnight. It’s tough to enact, especially when a firm is strapped for bandwidth and resources to be able to shift focus.
But that doesn’t take away from how valuable CAS is to clients. In fact, accounting advisory is often what a client really wants from their accountant, whether they know it or not!
So how do you help them cross the bridge from thinking they’ve hired a firm for bookkeeping only and truly embracing accounting advisory as key to their happiness?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of creating happier clients, it’s important to preface that not every client/business is a good fit for advisory. While your CAS may be applicable to most businesses, some:
Won’t fully understand the value of your experience/time
Won’t implement your advice
Aren’t in the right market or industry
Those types of clients are probably not a good fit for your CAS offering, and you can’t take it personally. There are plenty of businesses surviving without the help of advisory, even though they could probably benefit from it.
You can waste so much time and money working with clients who refuse to take full advantage of services that you miss out on clients who actually need and want your help (and are willing to pay for it). Choose the right clients, and say no to the wrong ones. That way you can focus your energy on the clients who are open to and ready to learn from your advice.
Cool, Collected, Concrete Data
A common misconception about CAS is that your clients want sage advice, full of clever proverbs and nebulous comments, that everything you say to them will be used as motivation. While you may be good at this and your advice might help your clients find the motivation to grow their business, it might not be what your client is looking for.
What they actually want is data-driven, concrete advice formulated by a deep understanding of trends and reports that will help them grow their business. Reports that measure growth are excellent aids in providing data-driven advice. Here are a few reports you should be using to help your clients better understand the importance of data and its correlation to their business’ growth:
Cash flow: Good cash flow leads to improved profitability, allows you to increase budgets on profitable processes, and attracts a wider range of investors.
Budgets and Expenses: Budgets should be specific, created from previous budgets, and included in your forecast. They allow you to time your upcoming expenses properly.
Forecasts: Forecasts typically include a detailed expense budget, marketing and sales data, and provide potential financial scenarios. Simply put, if they aren’t being referred to frequently, they aren’t useful.
Each of these reports is a common tool for measuring growth, and every business uses them. However, many business owners may not understand their importance.
What will set you apart and make your client happy is your ability to clearly explain:
How the data you’re collecting is helping create these reports
Exactly how these reports will help grow their business
Presented in language and terms they can understand
Happy accounting clients feel like their accountant or advisor meets them on their level, that they don’t talk over them or pull any tricks behind the scenes. Making an effort to do this will demonstrate your commitment to their success and happiness.
As mentioned before, it’s incredibly important to add value to your client’s reporting. This is the meat and potatoes of CAS and the key to happier clients.
A report shows “what happened” in the previous month, quarter, or year. This information is close to useless if you can’t apply what you’ve learned and make improvements.
Your clients likely don’t know how to make these improvements. They have the reports but are using your CAS to help them better understand what these reports mean. This is why it’s imperative you explain in detail the reasons that something happened. Show them how pulling one lever leads to a given result.
Once you’ve explained the “why” you can start to explain the “how.” The “how” is their strategy for improving/pivoting/moving in the right direction.
Many of your clients are unable to find this information on their own and are relying on you to guide them through how they can make necessary changes.
You can think of the “how” as an extension of providing concrete data. What you’re doing is explaining the events and processes that took place to make the data turn out the way it did and providing experienced advice to try to help point the numbers in the right direction.
Experience and Advice
Your experience and advice are invaluable to a client trying to understand data and reporting to grow their business. Some clients may know more than others, but because of your accounting expertise, you know the importance of data-driven reporting and why it matters.
You know the numbers don’t lie, but you also know you can easily make adjustments to improve the numbers. You can provide valuable advice to your clients to help them in the areas they don’t fully understand or are having difficulty adjusting.
Not only does your experience with numbers qualify you to give advice, but don’t forget—you’re also running a business (your accounting firm) yourself! You know what works and what doesn’t and have real-life examples of how some of your suggestions have improved your business. Your successful firm is proof you know how to make adjustments to improve in areas that aren’t performing as they should.
First-hand experience is an irreplaceable asset, and you have it. You should rely heavily on this quality because it sets you apart and puts you in a unique position to give actionable advice to clients where they are.
While your CAS services don’t necessarily guarantee any sort of financial miracles for your clients, your advice and support can play a major role in pointing them towards achieving their business goals—and boosting their moods from time to time!
You’ll provide them with potential scenarios and possible actions they can take to improve their business. When a client trusts you, implements your actionable advice, and sees results, it boosts their confidence and empowers them to continue making important decisions for their business.
Once you’ve created results, your clients will begin referring you to other business owners who may need your help, then you can start the entire process all over again. Happy clients lead to other happy clients, after all.
Making your clients happier starts with choosing the right clients, offering concrete data, adding to the conversation (as to why and how), and offering specific advice. From there, your client will make the choices for their business and see the results.
The simple secret to optimizing your CAS to get happier clients is giving them what they need to succeed. If you’re looking to introduce CAS to your new and existing clients, you might benefit from a list of “dos” and “don’ts” to help you succeed so you can focus more on client happiness. Click below to download your free copy!