I’ve had an experience with an electrician that got me thinking about some lessons for accountants.

First I rang the office number. The call was picked up by an electrician who my guess was on a job somewhere. He said there were no spots left in that week but he would call the following Wednesday to confirm a time for the next day for my required work to be done.

I didn’t get that call on the Wednesday so I tried to ring the office again. This time my call was diverted to a voicemail service that said please leave a 10 second message which will be sent as a text. I hung up. About an hour later I noticed I had missed a call and the associated voicemail message was from the same electrician I had spoken with in the previous week. It seemed he had not remembered our earlier conversation. His message was quite simply “I believe you rang.”

I think there are some key learnings about scheduling work and managing telephone communications that come from my experience. I’ve put the learnings under two headings and if I had to sum up the learnings in two words it would GET ORGANISED.

  1. Scheduling work
  • Have a scheduling system that everyone who needs to can access to see the status. In some firms this will be a part of your practice management system, or in others you may have a specialised software application. (The software is only a part of the system – the rest of it is the process you put around its use.)
  • Have the right person doing the scheduling. An electrician making decisions on the fly while working on a job is not the way to go and in an accounting firm it should be the job of a single person who has the experience to schedule. You will always have new client matters you need to slot in but for all your existing clients any compliance work should be scheduled annually in advance with each client. Assuming there was a system in place at the office the electrician should have immediately arranged for someone from the office to call me and book a time.

I was very frustrated at the inability of this electrician business to be able to commit to a date and time. Fundamentally they were just disorganised, with no obvious system for scheduling work.

  1. Managing telephone communications
  • Never use a voicemail service that captures a 10 second grab and texts it. This is so not the way to go from the client’s perspective. The client or prospect is unable to leave any meaningful message and is never sure if what they said was correctly translated into a text. It creates uncertainty.
  • Have the office phone answered at all times during business hours. If you can’t (and sometimes you may want to have an all team event or unexpected absences) then have a back up answering service that can take a full message to send the appropriate recipient and manages the caller expectations.
  • If you say you are going to call someone on a certain day, then you MUST do that. It may be that you have not been able to finish the work by the agreed time and if that is the case get on the front foot and warn the client. Don’t ring two days later and say I didn’t ring because the work was not finished. That is a sure fire way to lose a client.

I could spend pages talking about telephone etiquette but that is a more detailed topic for another day. Needless to say the electrician business had not mastered it. (Have you?)

These lessons may seem obvious, but in my experience in dealing with many firms, they are not well applied. Learn these lessons and make it easy for your clients to do business with you. In a world where it seems everyone is super busy, “easy” is something that is valued.

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