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The personal touch

Rudi Jansen explains why it is important we increase human interaction at a time when technology is potentially curtailing it.

As the accounting profession (and indeed the world) continues to move more and more digital, so do the interactions that we have both inside and outside of work.

For most clients now, instead of receiving shoeboxes full of receipts, bank statements and invoices, we have apps such as Receiptbank and Auto Entry. These allow them to send their documents to us using their phones from the comfort of their own home or offices.

And, likewise, instead of asking a client to call in to sign their accounts, a new proposal or letter of engagement we can send everything electronically so they can sign and return to us in a few clicks.

Personally, I’m not complaining about this. I think the benefits of using this technology far outweigh the potential impact that it might have on our interaction with clients, but it does still pose an interesting question: what can you do to increase human interaction at a time when technology seems to be curtailing it? Here are three ways…

1. Client courtesy calls: Like many others, one of the things I outsource in my business is IT support. And one of the things my IT support company do is they call me every three months just to check in and see if I need help with anything. Nine times out of 10 I don’t, because if there’s ever anything that needs fixing or setting up we reach out straight away, but every now and again there is something they can help me with.

These courtesy calls work well for two main reasons:

  • They serve as a quick way to touch base, just to see if everything is OK and if I’m happy with the service. This makes me feel like a valued customer and reminds me that they are there to help.
  • They open up additional opportunities for them to help me in the instances where I haven’t already asked. This second question leads nicely into my second point for increasing human interaction.

2. Look at offering additional services: It’s a little ironic. The same technology that is, on the one hand, limiting your interaction with clients is also creating a huge opportunity for you to interact with them even more by enabling you to offer additional services. With technology giving you access to real-time data at your fingertips you’re in a position (if you choose to be) to offer additional services to your clients that require more personal and human interaction. These could include:

  • Monthly management accounts with review meetings.
  • Coaching, goal-setting and accountability sessions.
  • Cash flow forecasting and budgeting.

If delivering these kinds of services isn’t for you, that’s fine. There are plenty of other options such as delivering Xero or Quickbooks training sessions that can also help to increase human interaction.

3. Mix up your communication style: I think most firms now are using a mixture of email, text/Whatsapp and phone to speak to their clients, depending on what the client’s preference is. And while these are quick and easy they can sometimes lack that personal, human interaction.

So, if it’s something you don’t mind doing, why not use video. Software such as Loom allows you to easily record your screen and webcam at the same time, so instead of texting or emailing a client a response to something, you can record a quick video from your computer and possibly even show them on the screen at the same time. While this isn’t a human interaction per se, it definitely feels more personal than an email or text.

Do they know how much you care?

Theodore Roosevelt once said that “people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care”.

So a question to leave you with: do your clients know how much you truly care about them and their businesses?

• Rudi Jansen is a coach, author, speaker and practice owner. Email rudi@rudijansen.com or call 01246 386 133. See www.rudijansen.com

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