7 Ways a CPA Can Stop Clients From Leaving

Want to keep clients from leaving your CPA practice? It just takes a little care and attention...

Years ago, a major retailer in our city ticked me off. 

My husband had bought some software. But he discovered later that it wasn’t compatible with his computer’s operating program. In fact, it caused problems and he wondered if the installation disk itself wasn’t corrupted since he had found fingerprints on it.

To put this into context, my husband is a computer expert. In fact, he worked within the headquarters of Micro Center at one point and had built computers for himself and others.

When we went to the retailer, we were told that they would not refund my husband’s purchase but would give him a new version of the same software.

My husband wasn’t interested.

What made the matter worse was the treatment my husband received. As he tried to explain why he didn’t want the software but just wanted a refund, the department manager became agitated. He told my husband that there was no use in talking to him anymore because his decision was final.

And then the manager walked away.

I stood there dumbfounded. The manager made no attempt to truly understand my husband’s concerns. Then he acted as though my husband was the problem and simply dismissed him in one of the rudest manners I’ve seen from a retail employee.

To say I was livid was putting it lightly. If I had a flamethrower in my hand at that point, I would have likely leveled the place. There simply was no excuse for treating a customer so shabbily.

Later, I wrote to our state’s attorney general, explaining the situation and how angry we were about it. The letter ended up getting passed to the store’s general manager, who called me and tried to rectify the situation.

But believe me, for many months after, I refused to shop in that store. It eventually closed (due to other circumstances) and to be honest, I wasn’t sad to see it close.

Have you had clients suddenly disappear?

The problem with clients leaving is that unless you have an unhappy customer like me who takes action, you don’t know they’re gone… until long after they’re gone.

Very few customers and clients will tell you why they left.

They just leave.

Which usually leaves you scratching your head while mumbling, “Was it something I said?”

Well, it might have been something you said.


Something you didn’t do.

There are many reasons why a client will leave their CPA. I’ll address some of the most common ones:

#1: My Accountant (CPA) Doesn’t Treat Me Right

Or as I like to say, “My CPA has lost that lovin’ feeling…”

A 2004 article from Direct Marketing News quoted a statistic from Purdue University. The university’s research indicated that the biggest reason customers give for leaving is poor service experience from a store. 68 percent of shoppers questioned included the following reasons: “rude employee, unaccommodating, slow to respond and unable to find the right person for help” as possible explanations.”

What does it take to treat someone right?

Two important components of any good relationship: attention and care.

No one likes feeling ignored or misunderstood. Clients want to know that their CPA appreciates their business. And you do this by keeping in touch, giving attention to the client, and making an effort to understand that client’s needs.

Think about what a quality relationship means to you. Trust isn’t developed in a day. It happens when you consistently prove yourself to be dependable and honest.

And follow-up is so important. Many times, people get frustrated when they feel as though their CPA isn’t responding to their questions or concerns. If you don’t have a system for keeping track of your communication with a client, develop one quickly. Make sure to record dates and a brief summary of your interaction.

That way, if there is any question of whether you were really listening (or have to prove that yes, you care), you can show your client that indeed, you do.

This is the main reason why I promote email marketing to my clients. If you hope to keep your client happy, email marketing is no longer an option. It’s required in order to stay competitive in today’s market.

When I started my own bi-monthly eNewsletter back in 2013, I wasn’t sure what kind of a response I would receive. I was delighted to discover that the ROI for email marketing is worth the time and effort I put into creating the eNewsletter.

In fact, one customer (who hired me for a “one and done” project), reached out to me after receiving my eNewsletter and complimented me on the design. He had another project for me. But what he said next should give you pause (as it did for me):

“You know, I really liked your newsletter and to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have reached out to you without it.”

Wow! So although I’d like to think I’m memorable to my clients, the reality is I’m just a very small part of their overall business activity. Without showing up on a consistent basis in someone email inbox, I quickly became invisible.

And by the way, that eNewsletter generated $10,821.34 in sales between Q2/13 to Q2/14. Not bad for a few hours work twice a month.

#2: My CPA Ignores Me

Unreturned phone calls and emails that never get a response also can cause your client to go elsewhere. Almost as bad is when you finally get around to getting back to your client and you don’t apologize for the delay.

This is especially true if a self-employed client feels as though they may not be as “important” as a larger client. CPAs usually are playing the long game. Consider that some of your smaller clients may become more important as you help them grow their business.

One of the easiest outsourcing tools I discovered is ScheduleOnce. I send prospects and clients the link to schedule a phone call. It’s linked to my Google Calendar, which has unavailable times already blocked out. During my available hours, a person can choose whichever 15-minute time slot fits their schedule.

Once someone reserves a slot, I’m notified by email and can then create a reminder in my Microsoft Outlook calendar. This helps me avoid the constant back-and-forth of arranging a phone call.

If you have an assistant, then that person can certainly do this for you. But if you don’t have an assistant, ScheduleOnce is the next best thing.

When a client realizes that their CPA is accessible and offers a fantastic return for their investment, they’re going to stick around and refer more prospective clients your way.

#3: My CPA Fails to Cooperate

A friend of mine recently hired a SEO agency to help increase traffic to her website. Originally, the plan was to reach a 60-mile radius with her business listing. Later, while on a phone call with the agency, she was told they were only going to target a 10 – 15-mile radius, despite what my friend wanted.

Not surprisingly, my friend is going to stop doing business with them after only one month.

Consumers are tired of not being respected or having their preferences taken seriously. You can certainly make the case for a particular service, but if your client doesn’t want it, you have to let it go.

Make the relationship easy by continuing to check in with your client on expectations. Ask questions such as, “Have I missed anything?” or “What else would you like me to work on?” And then listen carefully, take notes, and follow closely the client’s wishes. A happy client will stay with you longer.

#4 You Allowed Your Partner Relationship to Grow Cold

CPAs often rely on a partner, such as an investment firm, to refer clients their way. If you don’t take care of that partner relationship, though… guess what? You certainly won’t be at the top of their mind when they come across a good prospect for you.

Whatever the agreements that you’ve made, make a note of them in your calendar and follow up with your partners as needed. You’ll ensure that you won’t be forgotten when they meet a perfect prospect for your business.

A great way to keep your partners notified is to have a special monthly eNewsletter. Again, email is one of the best ways to stay in touch with your clients, prospects, and partners. Once you set up an eNewsletter template, it’s not difficult to update it on a monthly or bi-monthly basis.

Think of what would help your partner succeed. Have you noticed any patterns in your client that would affect your partner’s business? Just passing along these insights will let your partner know that you have his or her best interests in mind, too.

#5: My CPA Doesn’t Keep Me Informed

This is one of the top reasons to invest in your marketing. With today’s large selection of online marketing tools to fit any budget, there simply is no excuse for not offering frequent, consistent communication to your clients and prospects.

Prospects and clients need to be nurtured. You can do this easily with your marketing efforts. Newsletters, emails, special reports, press releases and more can keep your clients in the loop regarding news items and business developments that will affect them. You have the opportunity to become a true “trusted adviser” when you alert your clients about current events and explain what potential consequences it may have for their financials.

Don’t be afraid to send “flash emails” when an important development hits the news. Very often, your clients are also watching the news and wondering how, for instance, a new tax law will be affecting them.

Your “flash emails” don’t have to include fancy images or formatting. In fact, plain text often works better than HTML emails. The point is that your client will know you thought about them enough to take the time and alert them to a change that could potentially affect their account.

Doing this on a consistent basis will often answer unasked questions from your client while letting them know you’re there when they need you. Altogether, it’s a fantastic way to build trust and keep your clients happy.

#6: My CPA Assumes I’m a Technician

You’re in the accounting trenches day and day out. You know the terms, the software, the formulas, etc. like the back of your hand. But your client isn’t an accountant. So if you expect your client to immediately be able to jump into a complicated program and see the “logic” of it as you do, think again.

Your client needs your help in more ways than simply handling their books. They need you to explain things that you might think they already know (they don’t). Checking in with a client regarding how comfortable they may feel with a certain process will go miles toward establishing a great relationship.

If you don’t have process documents for some of the more common services you provide your clients, consider creating them. Explaining each step of the process while providing relevant information (such as phone numbers, online portal log-in directions, addresses, office hours, etc.) will help your client feel more comfortable.

Even saying such things as “I know this stuff inside and out but then again, this is my specialty. What questions do you have about it?” can reassure your client that you’re available and sensitive to their level of understanding.

#7: My CPA Uses Me As A Training Ground For New Staff

Clients typically understand that a practice will have several employees working on their account. However, if you use that client as a way to train new staff without proper oversight, the client will feel de-valued.

Communication can be a “client-saver” in this situation. First, ask permission to allow new staff to work on a client’s account. True, you don’t have to do this. But it shows that you respect the relationship you have with your client. If the client agrees, don’t overdo the training time. Check in regularly with both the new employee and the client to ensure a smooth experience.

And finally, it’s always nice to thank your client for their understanding. A nice card or even small gift will let your client know that you appreciate their willingness to be your staff’s “first” when it comes to client work.

When you think about client relationships, think about the kind of relationships you value in your life. It could be with your spouse, your children, your friends, or a mentor. All of those relationships require an investment of time and emotion in order for them to enrich both you and the other person.

It’s the same principle when it comes to client relationships. Clients want to feel appreciated, valued, and even pampered on occasion. They want to know you are paying attention to their needs.

And learning what those needs are isn’t difficult. One of my CPA clients offered their clients a survey about how they viewed their service. Not only did my CPA client carefully collect the responses, they hired me to put the data together in an attractive 11×17 4-panel brochure.

We placed a “thank you letter” on page one and then the results of the survey inside the brochure. Because this CPA practice received specific positive feedback, I was able to pull those quotes and feature them prominently throughout the brochure. It was directly mailed to the home and business addresses of their clients.

This is the type of marketing that will demonstrate that you’re a cut above your competition. Taking the time to do this continues to send the message to your clients that they are important and appreciated.

Many businesses – not just CPAs – have a tendency to put a lot of effort into acquiring a new customer, but then abandon them once the “honeymoon” is over. Once the client is onboard, these same business owners make the mistake of taking their client for granted. They believe that the client will stick around as long as you do an average job of providing your promised level of service.

If you communicate regularly with your clients and check in with them on a frequent basis… if you inform them about all of your services, explaining why it would benefit them to discuss their options with you… and if you consistently show appreciation for your clients – then they will stick around.

Of course, this is assuming you’re delivering world-class products and services. Even if your service was average – if you did all of the above, you’d have a better chance of keeping your clients than losing them to your competitor.

And to stay competitive, you need to be aware of current marketing trends. According to the new fourth annual “State of Marketing” report released by Salesforce, who polled 3,500 global marketing leaders at either a manager level or higher position, email experienced the largest increase in consumer-facing marketing programs, with email use by B2C marketers growing by 106%.

A trend among high-performing marketers is that they are 12.8 times more likely to combine marketing efforts across channels (i.e., email, mobile, and social). On average, marketing leaders today say 34% of their budget is spent on channels they didn’t know existed five years ago and they expect that to reach 40% by 2019.

Did you catch that?

Marketers admit that over a third of their budget is spent on channels they didn’t know existed only five years ago. And their budget spend will only increase. Marketers definitely have their hands full! This is why you need to keep on top of your marketing and discover quickly what’s working in your profession.

There are many ways to stoke the communication fires with your marketing. For more ideas, why not set up a call with me? I’ll be happy to share with you some of those strategies.

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About the Author

Mary Rose 'Wildfire' Maguire is a direct response copywriter, digital marketing consultant, and brand and email marketing fangirl. Tireless advocate for testing response. David Ogilvy is my invisible mentor, along with John Caples and Claude C. Hopkins. You can find me on Twitter or LinkedIn.