As an accounting firm coach, consultant and mentor, I tend to look at a lot of things in the world through the eyes of an accounting firm owner and what can be learned to apply in firms. As I write this I’m in France and have stayed in quite a few hotels in the UK and France in the past three weeks and I want to share a few thoughts that I think are relevant to running a better accounting firm.

Delivering on basic expectations

When Kate and I travel and stay in hotels a key thing that makes it a good room for us is a place to put our bags. We travel light but want to be able to have a horizontal surface (that is not the floor!) to put our bags on and open up. I am amazed by how many hotels overlook what I would consider to be a very fundamental need for travellers. The weird thing is that in most rooms there is the space to do it and it would cost very little do. I recently wrote about the value in putting yourself in the shoes of each client and I can’t help but think these hotel owners and managers have not done that.

What would be some of the very basic expectations of your clients? I wrote about this here : The why and how of managing client expectations and concluded that the three keys are scope, timing and price. As your client I want certainty about what you are doing for me, when it will be done and how much I will pay for it. It’s similar when I book a hotel room. What’s in and out – for example is there a desk, a safe, a fridge, tea making facilities and so on, when is check in and check out, and how much do I pay.

Asking your clients what they want

I sometimes have conversations with clients about whether they have asked their clients about what they want, or what is important to them. Prior to staying at one hotel in France, I was impressed that they asked us about this. We shared just two things – we wanted a view (which we knew was a given for the type of room we had booked) and the ability for Kate to make a cup of tea with full cream milk. Imagine my dismay, when on arrival, there was no mention of the questions or answers. The room had the view but no tea making facilities at all, which is unusual and despite us specifically flagging this as important. Please do not ask your clients for feedback if you are going to ignore it!

Show some warmth

I found it interesting the big differences in how people at hotel receptions and restaurants interacted with us. I wonder if your clients have that experience with you and your team members. A smile and a degree of warmth in dealing with others goes a very long way. A few people we dealt with made us feel like we were intruding on their valuable time even though we were the customer!