Improve your communication with clients

Most CPAs understand the importance of effective communication with clients. Periodically, however, they should take a step back and evaluate the communication skills they use to get their message across. Here are 10 points CPAs need to remember in order to maintain open communication with their clients.

Convey an attitude of trust. Improving the level of trust between two people helps to open the lines of communication. Once trust has been established, ideas flow more effectively.

Listen intently. Everyone likes to be heardespecially clients. Try to listen more emphatically. Remember, you have two ears, so try to listen twice as much as you speak.

Stay calm. Even if a client becomes irate, maintain your composure. Staying calm, particularly when the client is emotional, is critical to fostering a climate that enhances communication. If you get excited, the client will too, and nobody wins.

Accept personality differences. If you have a situation where personality clashes may adversely affect communication, accept it as something you cannot change. Try to see the situation from the clients point of view, and avoid showing frustration.

Organize your ideas. When conveying information to a client, particularly with respect to complex issues, it is important to do so in an orderly manner. Present the information in a way that is logical and meaningful to the client.

Adopt a positive attitude. If a client says something that puts you on the defensive, dont overreact and make excuses. Instead, provide sound reasons for the actions you took.

Avoid either/or thinking. All issues are not black or white. Accept the fact that there may be shades of gray. Dont polarize your thinking. Keep your mind open to new interpretations.

Provide feedback. Nothing can be more frustrating to a client than not being kept informed. Even if you have nothing concrete to report, clients should have an opportunity to ask questions. This way, they know they havent been forgotten.

Avoid information overload. Dont give the client too much information at once. If you are discussing a complex issue, break the information into easily understood chunks. If a client feels overwhelmed, everything you say after that point is meaningless.

Avoid using jargon. Always remember who you are talking to. If you have to use a term the client is not familiar with, be sure to define it in words he or she will understand.

Source: Steven Golen, PhD, associate professor of accountancy and information management, College of Business, Arizona State University, Tempe.


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