Despite all I had been told about the importance of client service, I didn’t really learn the lesson until donuts were involved. After a few weeks at the Aronson office in training seminars or studying, I was finally assigned my first client visit for interim fieldwork. In the planning meeting, the manager on the job suggested we bring donuts, so I volunteered. Before this, I thought of the accounting profession as technical at its core, with the frills of customer service provided to decorate the number-crunching. When I arrived and the receptionist mistook my senior associate and me for vendor sales representatives–because who else would bring donuts on a Monday?—I knew my concept of client service was wrong. The client’s surprise and appreciation for our simple gesture convinced me that accounting is a customer service profession with a technical specialization, not the other way around.
Connecting with our clients may seem like a no-brainer, but you will be surprised by how easy it can be to hide in a client’s conference room during field-work, firing off emails, rather than walking down the hall to ask a question. Relationships are not made via email. Even the most masterful of emails cannot leave the same lasting impression that a friendly conversation in the hallway can create. Whatever makes us averse to in-person interaction, whether plain old introversion or acute “Millennial-itis,” it is well worth overcoming!
Service is not a one-way street. Certainly, at the end of the day, our job is to deliver a tax return, an audit opinion, or a consulting work-product. But clients do something crucial for us as well: they help us rise beyond ourselves. My audit team arrived to a client’s office one chilly Friday in our ugly Christmas sweaters because we were invited to their holiday party. I doubt we would have gotten to know their team as well otherwise. More importantly, I doubt I would have realized that despite being “the auditors,” they saw us for what we really are: a part of their team.
Client service deservedly gets a lot of air time these days as the accounting profession continues to explore and refine its value proposition. But I was not expecting to learn the importance of it so quickly after starting at Aronson. The mindset that describes it best is this: Aronson is our employer, but even on our first day as associates, we are here because we work for our clients.