Do you ever work for free?
No? Are you sure about that?
Most tax professionals I know do, at various points in time, work for free. Most of the time, they call this free work “good customer service”. But what they don’t understand is that working for free erodes the value that your client perceives from working with you, and can spawn some very unhealthy client behavior.
Let’s take a look at a typical 1040 client. Let’s call her Janet.
Janet calls you out of the blue about 4 times per year to ask that “…one quick question, it should only take two minutes.” Unfortunately, Janet’s single quick questions always turn into 30 minute conversations. Also, the human brain requires time to re-engage to a productive task. So, if you were intently focused on putting together your new marketing campaign, but you chose to accept Janet’s call, then you actually just lost about an hour of productive time.
So that’s four hours per year right there, for one client.
Let’s not forget that Janet is buying a house, and needs you to fax copies of her last two 1040’s to a mortgage broker. And let’s not forget that CP-2000 that showed up in the mail because she forgot to give you that K-1 with $20 of income on it. So we’re now at about six hours of extra time on Janet’s behalf.
Six hours that you provided at no charge because you thought it was “good customer service”.
How many Janet’s do you have in your business?
And here’s the thing about people in general: It’s human nature to take a kilometer when given a centimeter.
(Yes, cliches work in metric, also.)
We all do it. I do it. You do it. Children do it. Poor people do it. Wealthy people do it. Americans, Russians, Chileans, Martians… We all do it, even though it’s mostly subconscious.
Here’s the problem: When you give clients too much rope, it’s YOU they’re hanging with it.
Yes, you need to provide good customer service. But good customer service does NOT equal free work. If you think it does, go try it with your doctor and see how far you get (“Hi, could I speak to Dr. Smith for two minutes, I just have one quick question…”).
I don’t know what your hourly rate is. I use $175 per hour as a nationwide, average billable rate … Continue reading