How Accounting Firms Can Effectively Reply to Client Emails

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Here are 5 tips we recommend to help your team respond to more client emails, be more efficient, and focus on billable work.

Email is still the most popular method for handling business communication and providing client support. Unlike live chats and phone calls, email allows you to prioritize client work around what’s most important, not who’s demanding your immediate attention. 

With the constantly shifting tax date and financial fallout from COVID-19, you’ve probably seen your inboxes fill up much faster than usual. Especially if your firm manages an email address for each client such as accounting@clientname.com.  Or if you operate generic email addresses like services@ or info@ for inquiries. 

Clients and prospects have a ton of questions and need your expert guidance and you need to reply to them as quickly as possible. And that’s incredibly difficult to do as you sort through your mountain of email.

If any of this sounds familiar, you need a better email process. To help you get started, we put together these 5 tips. They’ll help your team collaborate on email efficiently, reply quickly, and take better care of your clients.

1. Organize your inbox

You can’t start making changes to team processes without cleaning house first. It may be daunting but simply start with one hour to whip your inbox into shape, and go from there. 

Here are some easy wins you can use to get organized quickly:  

  • Unsubscribe from unimportant newsletters
  • Set up rules to auto-archive notification emails that don’t require a response
  • Create labels or tags to make it easy to filter and find important messages

Once you organize your inbox, it’ll be easier to keep it that way. You’ll be happy you did, and your increasingly productive team will be too.

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2. Delegate, delegate, delegate

In a shared mailbox, you need to understand who’s doing what. In traditional email accounts like Gmail or Outlook, you can’t see who’s responding to an email, which can lead to team members replying to the same client, or emails sitting unanswered. 

Forwarding or CCing emails clutter up everyone’s inboxes and will only slow you down. Instead, establish responsibility for different email types and delegate. You can do this with a task manager, over chat in Slack, or by using a shared email tool that’s built for team collaboration. Whichever method you choose, it’s important that you take the time to communicate as a team and understand who’s doing what.

3. Set a goal for your email response time

How fast should your team try to respond to emails? 

Roughly half of your clients expect to hear back within 24 hours. But if you’d like to satisfy the majority of your audience, aim for one hour or less. That might be a tough goal for your practice at first, but try setting an easier goal to start, like 8-12 hours, and then start tracking your team’s performance. You’ll start to get the hang of it, and can gradually aim for faster and faster response times. 

4. Save answers to common questions

You’ve probably noticed that your practice is getting a lot of the same types of questions. In the midst of a crisis, you’re likely seeing, “Are you still operating?” “Can you help me understand my cash flow right now?” 

If that’s the case, then you should write clear answers to those FAQs and save them in a shared location, like a Google Doc, where your team can copy and paste email responses. 

Create an email response system that works for you

Throughout this entire process, be sure that whatever method or system you establish for email response works for you and your firm. You want your replies to be quick, transparent, and serve the needs of your clients to the best of your ability. If that’s not occurring, go back to the drawing board and rework how you’re responding to emails. You’ll find that even if the implementation takes time, and a few resets, it will be well worth the effort.

Jonathan Michael
Jonathan Michael
Jonathan is the Senior Channel Marketing Manager for Palo Alto Software.
Posted in Working with Clients