Communication etiquette is vital for tax preparers due to the personal nature of the industry. Strong communication skills help you appear professional and courteous, improving your relationships with your clients and increasing client retention.
Learn how you can foster enjoyable, professional interactions with your clients with these business communication etiquette tips for tax professionals.
Face-to-Face Communication Etiquette
Make eye contact and minimize distractions
Face-to-face meetings are a chance to make clients feel welcomed and valued. There are always emails to answer and work to be done, but when you’re with a client, stay focused on them instead of other work. They’ll appreciate knowing that you’ve made them a priority.
Smile and make small talk
Being friendly and asking your clients about themselves lets them know that you see them as people, not just as customers.
Keep communicating as you work
Of course, you can’t maintain eye contact or full conversations as you prepare tax returns, but do try to stay cordial and communicate intermittently as you work. Long stretches of silence can feel uncomfortable for your clients.
Phone Communication Etiquette
Call during business hours
Avoid calling clients late in the evening or on weekends unless it’s necessary or if they’ve indicated that these are their preferred times.
Be easy to hear
Be sure to enunciate, speak directly into the phone, and minimize background noises, especially when speaking with clients who may have trouble hearing.
Phone calls – and voicemail messages in particular – should be friendly but short and to the point.
Email Communication Etiquette
Use salutations, closings, and well wishes
Just like your face-to-face interactions, emails should be friendly and professional. Phrases as simple as “Have a great weekend” can help prevent you from appearing blunt or cold in email communication.
Just like with phone communication, try to keep emails quick and concise.
To appear professional, emails should be grammatically correct and utilize complete sentences.
For more email etiquette tips, read also How to Improve Email Communication with Your Tax Clients.
Virtual Meeting Etiquette
With social distancing guidelines in place, tax preparers are having more virtual meetings than ever with tools like Zoom or Google Meet. In addition to face-to-face etiquette guidelines, follow these common courtesies in your virtual meetings.
Mute your mic when you aren’t speaking
This rule always applies in meetings of multiple people. If you’re meeting one-on-one with a client, however, you can generally leave your mic on as long there isn’t much background noise in your location.
Have an uncluttered background
As much as possible, try to take virtual meetings in a clear, uncluttered space.
Dress to impress
You may be working from home, but you should still do your best to dress professionally – at least from the waist up (or whatever the camera can see.)
General Communication Etiquette
These guidelines apply no matter what medium you’re using to communicate.
Use discretion and respect your clients’ privacy.
As a tax preparer, you’ll have access to information that clients may not readily share with other people. While appropriate small talk is usually welcome, avoid asking clients personal questions about medical expenses, divorces, and other sensitive subjects.
When in doubt, remember the golden rule
“Treat others the way you want to be treated” may be a cliche, but it’s the essence of all communication etiquette. In short, do for your clients what you would want any professional to do for you: make them feel valued and important and convey that you take your work seriously.
With these communication etiquette tips in mind, you’ll appear professional, competent, and courteous, setting the foundations for strong professional relationships with your clients.
The information in this article is up to date for tax year 2021 (taxes filed in 2022).