In a service-based industry like tax preparation, your client service skills can be the difference between one-time clients and clients who return for years to come. Even if talking with clients feels easy and intuitive, there are always ways you can elevate your clients’ experience. We’ve compiled practical tips and resources to help you improve each area of your client service skills as a tax professional.
Empathy and Listening Skills
On the surface, tax preparation may not seem like an emotionally charged profession. But as any seasoned tax pro knows, tax season can be a difficult time for many clients, from stress about unexpected tax liabilities to anger about an ex-spouse claiming dependents. Tax professionals who can express empathy are more likely to have satisfied, returning clients – even when their clients are frustrated with the return.
Practice active listening to understand clients’ concerns and emotions. Put yourself in their shoes and respond with understanding and compassion.
In the same vein, clients will appreciate when you seek their input on any problems you encounter. While you’ll maintain the position of tax expert, you can still help them understand their options and empower them to make the choice that works for them. For example, when they can’t afford to pay their tax liability all at once, keep a positive attitude and work together to set up a payment plan that fits within their monthly budget.
Staying Cool Under Pressure
Stress management techniques can help you be present and engaged with your clients even during the tax season rush. You’ll likely be more personable and attentive with clients, and you’ll have a clearer head to file returns and solve problems. Techniques such as deep breathing and positive self-talk. Prioritize tasks, delegate when necessary, and maintain a flexible mindset to adapt to unexpected challenges. Our Tips to Manage a Stressful Tax Season and Tax Preparer’s Guide to Avoiding Burnout can help you implement stress relief and time management techniques that work for you.
You can’t always control the outcome of a return, but you can control how you present that information to a client. As much as possible, use clear and simple language when you need to explain complex tax concepts to clients. Avoid jargon and ensure that clients understand their options. When a return can’t be handled in a single meeting or when preparing returns remotely, regularly update clients on progress and provide timely responses to their inquiries.
The right technology can help you communicate more reliably and efficiently, reduce the time you spend on administrative tasks, and improve your document security and organization, leaving you more time to attend to your clients. The chat feature on the TaxesToGo™ app, for example, automatically updates your clients on the status of their return and lets you send secure messages. It also provides a better experience for your clients, simplifying the process of sharing their documents and, in many cases, eliminating the need for face-to-face meetings. For more ways you can simplify your workload with technology, check out these 10 Tasks You Can Automate to Save Time.
Leverage technology to improve client service. Use secure online platforms for document sharing, offer electronic filing options, and employ tax software to streamline processes and enhance accuracy.
Credentials & Continuing Education
Empathy, personability, and good communication are all important client service skills, but at the end of the day, clients come to you for your tax expertise. Staying up-to-date on tax laws is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your clients see you as competent and professional. You can start by following blogs like the TaxSlayer Pro blog, where we cover major changes to tax law and issues affecting tax preparers. If you aren’t already a CPA, EA, or Annual Filing Season Program participant, consider pursuing one of these credentials to better help your clients. See our Tax Preparer’s Guide to Continuing Education Credits for more ways you can keep your credentials current and your tax knowledge sharp.
Feedback and Improvement
Finally, go straight to the source and ask clients how you could improve. After a meeting, try emailing your clients a simple survey to ask what they thought of their experience. A few quick questions on how they would rate their experience and a space to leave specific praise or suggestions for improvements are all you need. Remember, the shorter the survey, the more likely clients are to respond. This information can be useful for identifying blind spots you may not have noticed otherwise. For clients who were particularly enthusiastic about or grateful for your work, this provides an opportunity to ask for client referrals.
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