Boundaries and expectations must be managed in order for any relationship to thrive — that includes your relationships with clients at your accounting firm. Failing to set boundaries or communicate needs can result in relationship ruptures and lots of hard feelings. No one wants that. That’s why it’s important to take the necessary steps to communicate your needs and rules. Here are some things to keep in mind as you work towards bettering communication with clients at your accounting firm.
Clarify Response Times
How quickly do you reply to emails? What about a phone call? How soon do you need your client to respond to your messages? These time frames should be clarified, which will ideally happen during your onboarding process. Still, it’s never too late to make improvements.
Set the Scope
The scope of your work should be identified in your engagement letter, but it is always subject to change. Keep in mind that an outdated engagement letter might be the key way your client understands the work that you’re doing. If you find that you are doing additional work that was not originally outlined, they won’t know this unless you communicate. Then, either the scope of your work needs to be redefined or the assigning of additional work needs to stop.
Your job is made up of several smaller jobs, and those individual milestones need set dates AND outlined steps to help you reach them. When do you need that document from your client? Do you need their signature in order to reach one milestone and move on to the next task? When will the project be completed for your client? By communicating all these dates (and having them written down for reference), you can avoid constant questioning about deliveries and missed deadlines.
Respect the Schedule
We’ve all had that annoying phone call come in at 7 PM on a Saturday when we’re trying to do anything BUT work. This is exactly the kind of problem that arises when boundaries are not communicated. This respect should also go both ways, and you can communicate that to your client. Invite them to tell you what hours they are available and which are off-limits.
Don’t Be Afraid to Say No
We love what we do and we want our clients to know we always have their backs… But some requests are not reasonable or respectful of our time. Setting boundaries means you have to enforce those boundaries. If a client is calling you after hours, tell them you will no longer be answering and they need to respect your schedule.
Good relationships take work. Like family or friends, you have to set boundaries with clients and verbalize your expectations. This will help you prevent unnecessary arguments, tension, and work hold-ups. At the end of the day, both you and your client want the job to be done and be done well. This won’t happen if miscommunications are getting in the way.
Let us know how you’re establishing boundaries and improving your communication in the second half of 2023 below!