Growing up, I worked in a family restaurant in Lexington, KY, because I am a Greek American, and that is what most of my family did for a living. However, my father took another approach, and he owned a liquor store. In both cases, providing excellent customer service was the standard because that is the formula to success in business. They didn’t use words like – the customer experience because that is a synonym for excellent customer service.
Then what the hell happened to excellent customer service because it seems like that is harder to find than the Loch Ness monster, bigfoot, and a roll of toilet paper all put together. That is a scavenger hunt for the adventurous.
For example, I am a recent customer of AT&T TV, which provides a streaming TV service through their recent purchase of Directv. When I contacted them to begin my new service, it was in the middle of the month. As we were finalizing the purchase, I asked, will you be prorating the service for this month. The customer service person responded, ‘We don’t prorate our service anymore. We thought it was silly to do so.” WHAT?! Silly? When I think of silly, I think of the MTV show Ridiculous or YouTube Cat Videos or The Office Memes.
I needed to look up the definition of silly to see what I was missing. According to the Oxford Language Dictionary, the definition of silly is “having or showing a lack of common sense or judgment; absurd and foolish.” I am beside myself why any organization would think it would be silly to charge the customer the exact amount of money for the service rendered. Or are they thinking that providing excellent customer service by overcharging the customer serves that purpose? In business improv, this is a genuine lack of respect for the customers they are serving.
Let’s take a different turn and put the focus on those professions that tend to be very technical in nature – accounting, medical and health care, engineers, scientists, etc… Being very technical, in essence, means they speak a very different language than plain English. But, unfortunately, these professionals tend to forget that their audience does not speak their technical language.
For example, a few years ago, I had some tests done, and I received a phone call from my doctor on a Friday afternoon. That’s right, my doctor, not the nurse. I didn’t think she was calling to offer me Ohio State Football tickets for the next day. Instead, she said that the test results came back, and I may have – gibberish sounding words. Lots of gibberish-sounding words, along with more gibberish-sounding terms. I interrupted her and said, could you please explain this to me in plain English. She paused for a moment and said that “I may have cancer.” How hard was that? Was there an attorney sitting across from her desk making sure she was speaking in medial gibberish? Who knows.
Let’s bring this example into the world of accounting, particularly public accounting. I hear story after story after story about CPAs clients leaving a meeting and having no clue what the CPA was trying to communicate because the CPA was communicating in ACCOUNTING Gibberish. Similar sounding words that my doctor spoke to me. The language of business – accounting – is a foreign language to those who do not have the same depth of knowledge and speak. Have you ever traveled to a foreign country and, before arriving, not invested anytime in trying to learn the basics of the language like – “where is the bathroom, how much for a beer, why is everyone taking an afternoon nap?” Instead, we get frustrated because they don’t speak English in their own country. Arrogant.
To top it all off, when CPAs are trying to explain something to a client using an excel spreadsheet, they should be arrested for exceeding the speed limit and abusive behavior. They are going a mile a minute AND bouncing around the spreadsheet-like a super ball. If they continue to do this either in person or on Zoom, they need to issue air sickness bags before they begin.
There is a communication problem that exists, and it is a prominent blind spot for the CPA. You know why because they continue to act this way even though you “the client” did instruct them that you don’t speak ACCOUNTING or TAX, and you don’t need to see all the detail. This type of behavior is affecting the overall customer service they are providing to their clients. However, when I have asked those frustrated clients why don’t they change CPA firms, their response is usually, “this is my second or third firm, and they all have the same issues. Therefore, I will keep my current firm because I trust them even though I don’t understand what they are trying to communicate to me.” That to me sounds like a loveless marriage, and we are staying there because it is easier.
Earlier this year, a colleague contacted me asking for a referral to a CPA firm. A family member had been doing the books for several years, and the business outgrew the capabilities of the family member. On a side note, the family member suffered from excessive Accounting Gibberish and using excessive speeds while operating a spreadsheet. I suggested two regional firms and one small local firm.
The decision was made to go with the smaller CPA firm, thinking they would communicate better with them. My colleague did share early on that they are not fluent in accounting and keep the conversation at a high level and put it in language that they understood – let’s call that plain ENGLISH! Since signing on as a client, there have been some struggles until recently, when it escalated to a full-blown meltdown.
My colleague called one afternoon in TEARS after a Zoom meeting with the CPA firm because they didn’t understand what the CPA was trying to explain to them, AND they were trying to explain this via an excel spreadsheet with 50 columns and 500 rows. The spreadsheet was not that big, except it felt that big as the CPA was trying to explain it at Mach 4 speed while Tigger was bouncing around the rows, columns, and cells. They just wanted it to be over and did not want to ask any questions because they felt stupid enough and didn’t want to feel worse.
No client or customer should ever have to go through this same type of treatment even though the CPA had no clue the negative impact they were having on their client. On a selfish plug, that is why I wrote the book Taking the Numb Out of Numbers: Explaining and Presenting Financial Information with Confidence and Clarity so CPAs can better connect, communicate, and collaborate with all of their clients.
Once a firm realizes that explaining the financial information in plain English and using stories to help understand, they will have a substantial competitive advantage in the marketplace. So be that firm whose clients rave about excellent client service because you are a translator of financial information so that your client’s business bottom line will improve way beyond their wildest dreams. BTW – you know that referrals are the best and cheapest form of marketing.
Let me help you become better translators of your complex financial information so that you can gain the competitive advantage over your competition. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.