Effective communication – 8 ways to make sure you are understood

Effective communication

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Effective communication is crucial as an accountant, as important as understanding numbers, in my opinion. Many people find numbers daunting and they need you to put them at ease by explaining and communicating clearly. They are often sharing very personal information so trust is essential. Also, it’s important for your relationship that you and your client are able to communicate openly and honestly.

One of the main reasons I wrote Accountants don’t bite was because I was surprised at how much people didn’t like or understand accountants. I think the main reason for this is because of communication. And yet effective communication is at the heart of an accountant’s relationship with their clients.

Remember communication includes emails, texts, phone calls, video calls and face to face. It can even include your website, blogs, social media and publicity material. A rushed text or email in response to a client – and we have all done that at some point when a matter is urgent – can sometimes lead to confusion which takes even longer to clear up. It can even lead to misinterpretation and a breakdown in trust and relationships. When I email clients and colleagues, I always try to explain things clearly, but even then, sometimes they completely misunderstand. You need to take the time to think of other ways to communicate the concept until they have had that ‘aha’ moment. Very satisfying when you get to this!

Why it’s important to communicate

Communication isn’t only about business. Putting clients at ease is important. Genuinely being interested in their lives, both business and personal, helps to foster relationships.

Good communication results in:

  • Making it easier to work together
  • Building trust
  • Clients appreciating what you are doing
  • More satisfaction for you when someone has that ‘aha’ moment because of something you have explained
  • Being more productive

 

Let’s face it, many people have a block with numbers and find them difficult to understand or had bad experiences in school and so have the mindset that ‘I don’t do numbers’. It is your job as their accountant to help them realise that this is not the case. Everyone can ‘do numbers’, they just need a bit of support sometimes. As for business owners, it is crucial for them to understand their numbers for their business to succeed. This is something else I feel strongly about and why I wrote Your Business, Your Numbers.

I recently spoke to a potential client who said that she never hears from her accountant. She receives her draft accounts and corporation tax return to sign but doesn’t have the opportunity to speak to anyone or ask questions as she receives it so near the deadline. To me, this is unacceptable. How can you possibly build a good relationship and explain what you need – and more importantly give your clients an opportunity to explain what they need – without a two-way conversation.

How can you improve your communication?

With all the benefits that arise from being a better communicator, it is obvious that this is a skill that you need to nurture as an accountant. But how do you improve your communication skills?

  • Think about what you’re trying to communicate; what do you want the person to understand?
  • Can you express it more simply?
  • What is the best way to relay the information? It may be a telephone call or Zoom, which gives the client an opportunity to ask questions is the best way to explain complicated information, rather than in an email.
  • Practice before your session with your client.
  • Be clear and concise in your message. Are you making assumptions of what they know?
  • Be kind; don’t have a superior attitude. You may think that the information you are giving is obvious, but it may not be to your client. We all have different skills and talents!
  • Keep emails brief and use bullet points. Read through what you have written before you send it and try to see it from the client’s perspective.
  • If you’re not in the correct frame of mind, don’t reply. Do it later when you’re calmer!

 

Also notice what works and what doesn’t. It’s no good continuing with an approach that isn’t effective. The level of understanding your client has will affect the way you communicate with them; it’s no good baffling them, but on the other hand – it’s no use teaching someone to suck eggs! Everyone is different and you will need to alter your approach to suit each client.

Use these tips and watch how your communication skills improve over time. People will react to you in a better way, and they will appreciate the effort. You will notice an improvement in your efficiency. Also, it will make any conversations you have easier and more enjoyable.

Give it a go!

 

Anna Goodwin @2024 All Rights Reserved.

www.annagoodwinaccountancy.co.uk