6 Ways to manage your practice in the era of diminished time.

This tax season has been more difficult than years past. Complex returns, tax software glitches and late form releases made filing in 2013 a nightmare. We heard from many of you in our ClientWhys Connect technical support forum and on the phone. Long hours combined with getting less work done seemed to be the norm for overworked professionals.

So what can be done to improve your efficiency going forward?

1) Take a more advanced CPE tax update course - Ok, ok, I know... Some look at continuing education as a necessary evil. But let's get something straight. Knowledge is what separates you from other professionals and saves you time in the tax interview. Not having the answers to client questions causes you to take more time per return. Worse yet, mistakes can be costly. The less you know directly affects how many clients you can see per day, far outpacing any costs associated with being properly prepared.

2) Use a better tax organizer - There is no question that the better organized your client is when they arrive at their appointment, the easier the task is for you. A thorough tax organizer should identify all facets of a client return. No surprises. There is no one-size-fits-all. Your tax organizer should be simple for short returns and complex for your bigger clients. So ask yourself if your current organizer fits your client base. Does that 20-page organizer your preparation software kicks out discourage your client from filling it out? Do your clients come in prepared for their interviews? And if not, what steps can you take to get them there? Every minute counts in the interview.

3) Use technology to manage missing information - If your office is full of post-it notes and open, unfinished tax returns, this message is for you. Low-cost client relationship programs can easily help you manage missing information. Following up and getting a handle on things is much easier than trying to remember who is missing and who owes what.

4) Automated marketing tasks - Everything from your client newsletter, appointment reminders and website updates can now be automated using technology. Newsletters can run on auto pilot. Clients can receive phone calls, text or email reminding them of their appointment. Website blog articles can be automatically updated. The administration costs alone far outweigh any monthly fee. Why continue in the old way of doing things when applications can do it for you?

5) Use Voice Over IP (VOIP, an Internet phone service) to save on Telcom costs and make you more mobile - One of the easiest business decisions is changing over to VOIP phone service. It saves you time by e-mailing voicemail messages so you can access from any device from wherever you have Internet access. It saves you money by dramatically lowering your costs versus traditional phone service. Stop missing client calls and playing phone tag by routing calls to the phone of your choice anytime, anywhere. We recommend OnSip as a dependable option.

6) Create an interview checklist - We all know there certain critical questions our clients must answer that are pertinent to the tax interview. It is time-consuming to ask each client these questions during an interview. We also know that clients more often than not fail to answer these questions on the organizer. You can save hours of valuable time by listing those critical questions on an interview checklist for the clients to review while you are working on other aspects of their return. Use one master list in a page protector or in a tabletop display and ask only one question: “do any of these questions apply to you?”

In Summary - Realize you are not alone. Partners, peers and vendors can be there to cut down on your busy day. Change is not hard and pays off directly to your bottom line. Implement at least one of these tips and slowly start changing the way you manage your practice.

  • Lee Reams II

  • I am a marketing junkie who has spent the last 20 years developing and executing "best in class" word-of-mouth marketing campaigns. With over 10,000 happy clients I think we are on to something. The explosion in web marketing and social media have redefined the way independent professionals market their practices. Follow my blog to see if you can take some of our actionable ideas to market your own practice.

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