Tax & Accounting Blog

Here’s to turning a negative into a positive: 5 tips for accountants

Accounting, Accounting Firms, Blog February 9, 2020

Wine! Now that I’ve got your attention, I wanted to share my experience of buying a few bottles recently and highlight the valuable lesson for accountants to get customer service right.

The story centres around how two different businesses dealt with a similar minor issue and how the outcome made all the difference – and will significantly impact this customer’s lifetime spend. One business went above and beyond to rectify the issue, and the other argued a legal point buried deep in fine print.

Similar issue, different outcomes

Example A: I visited a boutique winery, AK Wines for a tasting and purchased two bottles. When I got home, I realised they’d put the wrong ones in the bag. They were the same price and were similar wines, so I didn’t really mind. After receiving a feedback survey I let them know what had happened. The head winemaker called me, apologised, personally drove to my office (40 minutes away), delivered the two bottles and told me to keep the originals.

Example B: I bought some wine at an online auction. After realising it hadn’t been delivered I worked out that my credit card had expired, updated my details online and called customer help to discuss. Rather than trying to salvage the situation they said they’d cancelled the order and were under no obligation to let me know as their course of action was explained in the fine print.

One business fixed the issue and created a “wow” customer experience. He is now a friend and I am a loyal client of his. The other repeated empty platitudes. “You are a valued customer”, they said – but this was not matched by their actions and I will probably never buy from them again!

Reflecting on the customer experience: top 5 tips

 In all my interactions that I have with other businesses (both positive or negative), I always reflect on how I feel as the customer and how I can use these lessons to improve my accounting practice.

As accountants, we have systems and processes in place to prevent errors, however no one is perfect and, on the rare occasion, they even happen to the best of us!

Here are my top five hints on how to provide exceptional client service:

  1. Remain calm at all times

I have had an occasion where a client yelled at me over the phone due to an issue, even though it was their own fault. If I got angry, that was not going to help the situation. By being calm and compassionate, I found out that they were angry about something else going on in their business and were just letting off steam. Running a business is not for the faint of heart.

  1. Don’t assign blame

The error may have been the fault of the firm or the client. If the latter, assigning blame to the client is not going to rectify the issue or strengthen the relationship.

  1. Focus on identifying the issue and resolving it as a top priority

After remaining calm and not assigning fault, it is vital to fix the issue ASAP. Whether you reallocate team members or even attend to the matter personally, fixing the problem promptly will make the client feel valued, show that you understand their frustration and are doing everything within your power to provide an accurate and timely solution.

  1. Go above and beyond for the client

The boutique winemaker went above and beyond by personally delivering the correct product the same day and telling me to keep the incorrect one as well. Even though we can’t provide the same resolution in an accounting firm, there are plenty of ways you can smooth the situation, such as discounting your fee, sending a gift, informing them later of the process changes you have made in the firm and thanking them for helping you improve your firm.

  1. Future-focused after the fact

Whenever an issue arises (even if it is the client’s fault) it is important to review procedures and processes to see what we can do to improve them in the future.

When you have issues in your firm, what do you do? Do you follow the above process or have some of your own techniques?


Greg Mawer is a Director of Mawer Consulting, a multi-award winner consulting firm focused on strategic business advice, accounting and taxation. He also is the Founder of Mawer Money, a social enterprise to assist Australians with financial literacy.