Tag Archives: Clients

How much do you know about your customers?

“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”
Sam Walton

Depending on what sort of business you have you may know a lot about your customers or you may not. A high street shop will likely have a large number of customers but not much information about them while a professional services firm (for example) might have a smaller customer list and a lot more information about them. But whoever your customers are they are crucial to the success and profitable growth of your business.

You probably wouldn’t think that an accountant would worry too much about what customers want – on the surface at least it’s usually accounting advice of one form or another.

I’m interested in customers because there is useful business information to be got at.

Most businesses have a list of who their customers are and usually basic details about addresses and contact details. But what did these customers buy most recently? What does recent actually mean?

Are these customers good for your business? Do they pay promptly, are they profitable? Does serving them take more time and attention than other customers? Can you divide your customers into groups? Do they value different things about your product?

I don’t have any advice to share here; because every business is different every business’ customer group will be different, but it’s vital that you build a picture of who your customers are. And it’s vital that that picture is based on information, not your own opinions or guesswork.

If you don’t know who your customers are you won’t know which customers you want more of. And maybe also which customers you don’t want any more of! Then instead of acting on intuition and “the next bright idea” you can develop a structured plan to grow the sales you want.
Customer information is key to growing your business
When you know what’s important to your customers and what’s valuable about them you can set some Key Performance Indicators to track how well you are doing in attracting and retaining the customers that you want – what get’s measured get’s done.

This will focus your efforts around your customers and make sure you’re keeping the boss happy.

How do I get good advice from my Accountant?

Every professional adviser (Solicitors, Accountants, Consultants, etc) takes pride in giving good advice.

However sometimes it feels hard to get the advice you’re looking for and in this case it usually turns out that no-one’s satisfied. Getting good advice means asking the rights questions

Compare business advice to going to see a Doctor: you go in and say “My arm’s been sore since I fell over”. They might say “You’ve got a broken arm, lets put a plaster on it.”

But if you said “Doctor, my big toe’s a bit sore.” they wouldn’t look at your arm… You didn’t ask them too!

Here are my tips to help make sure you get the advice you need from your adviser:

1. Remember that you’re paying.

In my experience most people expect not to understand what their professional adviser tells them.

Advisers are very clever, well qualified people who are engaged for what they know about their subject. But hold on: they are clever and well educated and so they should have the understanding and skills to explain the important points to their client.

One of the best bits of advice I was given when I started my training was that I should never leave my client’s office until I knew (and fully understood) the answer to the questions I had – it was unprofessional to go back and ask again.

The same applies in reverse, you’re the only person who really knows whether you understand the advice or not!

There's no such thing as a silly question

It’s not a stupid question – I don’t know what it is…

2. Expect to ask questions.

Don’t be afraid of asking a stupid question, if you’ve got a question then ask it!

This especially applies if you’re in a group. Everyone else will be nodding sagely in response to the advice, but if there’s something you don’t understand then I guarantee that you’re not the only one!

3. Think about what advice you need in advance.

You can’t expect good advice if you say to your accountant “Tell me what I need to know”.

You will get lots of advice, some of it will be big and you will probably get a bill that looks like you’ve had good advice.

What you need to say is something like “Tell me what I need to know about buying a business” or “Tell me what I need to know about suing another business” (I’ve had a busy week!).

Or better still you could say “Tell me what I need to do to … (choose your ending!)”.

This requires time and effort from you, which I guess is why it is often missing!

This raises an interesting point about advice from accountants.

A large proportion of their work is helping people make sure they are not paying more tax than they ought to. Grey HairSo when you sit down in front of them and say “Give me advice” they can often help you even if you haven’t specified what kind of advice you want.

But if it isn’t tax advice that you want…..

4. Make sure the advice you want is something your adviser can help with.

It’s always useful to add “Is this something you can help me with?” to your request for help.

To repeat what I said earlier, consultants like giving good advice. Their reputations are built on their knowledge.

If you ask them for advice in an area where they have little experience it is sometimes difficult for them to say “I don’t know about that”. You need to make it as easy as possible to point you in the direction of someone who does.

5. Let them know when they’ve hit the target

It’s easy to think that because you’ve paid the bill your adviser will be happy (they will be happy!).

But if the adviser really has solved your problem perfectly they will always appreciate a “thank you”. Just a phone call is enough, but in some way communicate that they gave you good advice.

On target

This helps them know that they understood what you wanted and gives you a relationship that will help avoid problems with points 1 to 4 in future!