How to strengthen client relationships during a pandemic

Shutterstock_776701864How can you expand services to existing clients and attract new clients in the current environment? Here are tips from experts.   

Choose the software that works best for you.

In searching for new ways to maintain ties to clients, Christine DeAngelis, CPA, tax master at 20-person High Rock Accounting has found that video conferencing makes the contact more personal, even when an email would also work.

Being invited into people’s homes virtually opens opportunities for broader conversations about their goals and services you can potentially provide. When it comes to messaging, she prefers Slack over email for immediate responses and exchanges that are closer to a conversation than email. Another advantage: the ability to jump to video conferencing during a Slack conversation as needed.

Highlight your role as the trusted business adviser.

To keep clients informed during a confusing and stressful time, Andrew Jordan, CPA and president of Jordan CPA Services began emailing clients in March with updates on the pandemic and its impact. To alleviate their concerns about their businesses, he also reminded them that they had developed a long-term plan and were well positioned to survive the crisis. As an example, a gym was able to get by during lockdown restrictions because of smart choices the firm had previously recommended about refinancing its debt.

Jordan’s firm also sent informational emails to clients explaining the implications of the CARES Act before it passed. As the crisis progressed, Jordan’s firm launched weekly videos with updates on hot topics, such as changes to PPP guidelines or self-employment issues. He shared the videos with clients and encouraged them to pass them on to interested colleagues or business contacts. Proactive communication strengthens relationships with clients.

Jordan has also offered free consultations to anyone who needs help with areas, such as the PPP or other aspects of the CARES Act. He’s been happy to have the chance to give something back during tough times.

Nurture current client relationships.

At six-person Gray, Salt & Associates, enhancing services to existing clients while relying on referrals for new ones has always been the focus. With that in mind, partner Dalton Sweaney continues to make face-to face connections with clients, within suitable social-distancing guidelines.

In his small college town, Sweaney used to run into clients regularly when he went to lunch or on an errand. Since the pandemic has forced people indoors, he has tried to be intentional about stopping in to see clients. He puts on his mask and picks one client to visit each week. Sweaney says they are typically excited to see him and appreciate the chance to talk face-to-face. Showing this kind of interest “will lead to clients for life,” he said, and the firm’s steadily rising revenues reflect that.

At the same time, remember that not everyone requires old-school communication. His firm has used a software system for a while and most clients, even elders in the community, have been receptive. During the pandemic, the portal has been a great tool when working with clients who are in retirement communities that are not accepting visitors.

Boost your public presence.

Firms need to have an appealing public face, DeAngelis says. With that in mind, she has reviewed her firm’s online presence to ensure it is presenting itself to the world as well as possible.

Updating details on your firm’s website, as well as adding timely information that will be of value to clients or prospects is important. She uses Instagram and other social media, posting blogs and sharing webinars to inform current and potential clients of her firm’s abilities.  You may also consider applying for a .cpa URL to match your website. This not only extends your firm branding but can add a level of security.

Despite the disruptions the pandemic has caused, there are ways to deepen client relations and form new connections. Seize this time to demonstrate the enduring value of CPAs.

Erin K. Carson, PMP, Manager - Young Member Initiatives, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants