An Organisation for all
Accountants in Practice

Improving Your Customer Service

By Richard Simms

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The insolvency statistics were released at the end of April for the first quarter of 2014, and despite the economy improving, some of the figures highlight that there are still areas where improvements can be made among UK businesses.

For accountants who have business clients, there is a general consensus that the individual sectors are slowly improving. With these improvements, accountants are experiencing requests from clients seeking advice and guidance on how they can improve their business so they are not left behind. Accountants are increasingly becoming the “go to” advisor for businesses and so an availability of a good network of specialists is crucial to all accountants.

Non-bank finance

A key concern for many small and medium sized businesses of late concerns business funding and where they can turn to if their local bank declines to help. It is important that accountants are aware of the other forms of funding available in order to help advise their clients where best to turn. Some alternative funding options include:

peer to peer lending; crowd funding; government schemes; and factoring and invoice finance. It is sensible for accountants therefore to have a general understanding of each of the non-bank funding options in order for them to be able to suggest the appropriate alternative for their client.

Management accounts

The discussion on whether management accounts are needed will be determined by your individual client’s needs. Some of the benefits of completing management accounts for your clients though include:

Improve relationship with client.
Greater insight into client’s business.
Spot any worries early.
Be able to pre-plan cash flow in advance.

The cost of producing these accounts will always be a key factor; however, if you take into consideration the above benefits it seems to be an effective way to look after your clients. From discussions with some accountants

It’s apparent that pricing for management accounts varied enormously. Some say the price is the same as producing annual accounts while others say it can be up to 200% more expensive. One of the benefits is spot any worries early. This represents any cash flow troubles and allows any problem to be looked into at an early stage and hopefully fixed before it spirals out of control. Some signs to look out for include:

Drawing dividends if the company is struggling.
Directors personally propping up their company by injecting personal funds.
Constant reliance on the companys overdraft.
Legal action threats from creditors such as a winding-up petition or statutory demand.
Dealing with an employee dispute.
Non-compliance with VAT and PAYE.
Reliance on one key customer.

If spotted early enough, the above signs should be able to be resolved with a business rescue or turnaround service. Though they may not be directly implying insolvency, they can raise concerns within a business that will need to be addressed to ensure there is no bigger underlying problem.

Marketing

An area too often ignored by accountants is the need to support clients in marketing their business. If you don’t use marketing, how will your potential customers know you’re there? This question explains exactly why all companies need to use marketing. Marketing your business is a way to survive against competition and expand the business for future trading. It is a way to attract new customers and retain old ones, and it also enables companies to expand their products into different markets. Accountants should be aware of their clients market place in order to be able to advise them on how best to market themselves against their competitors. Alternatively, if you have a client that specialises in marketing you could always refer your other clients to them in order to advise them on how best to proceed with marketing. Marketing is an increasingly important part of your own client support network.

Conclusion

This article has hopefully highlighted areas where accountants will now be required to have general knowledge on in order to help advise and guide their clients in their consultancy/advisory role. These are just some of the areas that business owners may ask questions about. However, if you only deal with a specific industry it may be worth keeping yourself up-to-date with all the activity involved as this may be another area where clients may seek further assistance.

Published May 2014