Communicating human-to-human is vital, crisis or otherwise
Research by PracticeWeb during the Covid-19 crisis reveals the importance of human connections.
It’s not all about numbers. What does your accountancy practice do to connect with clients as people? How do you make them feel heard and cared about?
PracticeWeb has been talking for years about the importance of building connections and engaging on an emotional level. It’s how brands grab attention in crowded markets, win loyalty and inspire action.
Accountancy, however, has historically been a business where the head rules the heart – in which competence and professionalism are more important than values and attitudes.
That was backed up by research PracticeWeb conducted with SMEs last year. They told us that specific sector knowledge was the most important quality in an accountant, ahead of professionalism and price.
But 2020? Well, it’s been emotional.
Some lost their livelihoods overnight, along with their sense of purpose. Others had staff to worry about. All against a backdrop of constant anxiety about the health and wellbeing of family and friends.
Lockdown brought a sense of powerlessness, with plenty of time but few options for practical steps to take. As a result, people have been hungry for actionable advice, opportunities to vent and, crucially, reassurance that there is a path through the chaos.
Our most recent round of research, conducted in partnership with brand consultancy Insight 101, found that 87% of respondents put ‘good communication skills’ in the top three most desirable characteristics for an accountant. And a full 49% said it was the most important attribute, outranking any other option.
The first step in achieving ‘good communication’ is any kind of communication. Only 35% of our survey respondents got a phone call from their accountant and not many more – 40% – got an email.
Is your practice good at communicating? In the relative calm that has descended with the easing of lockdown restrictions, it’s worth taking time to reflect on this.
Ask yourself, your team and ideally your clients, ‘what did we get right? And what could we have done better?’
Of course we can’t all stay in crisis mode forever and nor will clients expect the same level of attention as panic gives way to a strange new status quo.
If you stepped up your clients’ communications during the height of the crisis, as did many of PracticeWeb’s clients, you’ll need to think about how to scale that back.
But whatever you do, don’t stop cold. Now you’ve got into the habit of blogging, emailing and calling, keep it up. The difference is that now, it can be controlled, planned activity built around a long-term strategy rather than a process of constant, heart-racing reaction to events.
Define a content plan, including contingencies for further rounds of lockdown and what might come out of the July ‘summer statement’ and what is expected to be a whopper of a Budget in the autumn. You don’t need to keep posting at crisis levels, but don’t let your practice blog or LinkedIn page revert to tumbleweeds.
And don’t stop talking to clients. If you don’t have a customer relationship management (CRM) package, or don’t make full use of one you’ve already got, now’s the time. Accountants often describe themselves as proactive and friendly, but nothing makes those feel as real as a check-in call or personalised email.