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Have you actually met all your clients in person?


Yardley CPA
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How many of your clients have you actually met in person?  My practice consists of preparing returns at night and on the weekends.  I have about 100 clients.  I have not actually met 25% of those.  While we exchange information virtually and speak by phone/Zoom when we need to, we never met in person (unless you consider Zoom "in person").  They were referred to me through other clients and most never asked to meet in person even though that was always offered.  Do you have similar experiences?

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I have clients from CT to CA, CO to TN, MA to FL, I think 13 states. I've met 1/3 of them face-to-face (at least one spouse/partner/shareholder/trustee), CT residents or were before they moved to another state. Some of those were rare meetings, such as the spouse on a joint return who's also a trustee on her son's trusts, but I'm not sure I've met her. Or, the TN children who visited their grandfather (the investor who hired me to prepare his grandchildren's returns) so I saw them at church once. Hubby has met some that I have not, because (pre-pandemic) he did a lot of deliveries for me, signatures/delivery. They were all referrals, such as parents/children of clients, or clients of retiring preparers. I recognize more voices on the phone than I do faces of my clients.

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I used to meet 90% of my clients. This year, I would say about 60%.  They come to drop off documents and they come back to sign and pick up return. Some of them drop off with my partner, I prepared their taxes and talk on the phone with them and then they come to pick up their copies from my partner.  I am the only one preparing taxes in my practice. 

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I’ve always met them at least once until I moved to MA.  Now there must be about 30 I have not met.  Having a friendly relationship with them sometimes calls for an exchange of photos so I send one from 10 years ago.

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I joke that 1/3 of my clients could walk by on the street and I'd have no clue.  Aside from copies of their Driver's Licenses for some state return filers, I have no idea what they look like. 

I haven't actually seen a client in my office in 2 years. Covid protocols nixed those couple old-schoolers than liked to come in person so now I'm totally remote. 

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Until a year ago, I met them nearly all of them. I don't think they met me. 😐  I'd see them in the grocery store, when I used to go to them, and lift my shades 😎 and say, "It's me ... I do your taxes!" 

 

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Once a client accidentally, through no effort on my part (I swear), mistook a picture of my DIL with my granddaughter for a picture of me with my daughter. They searched for me and saw an old Facebook profile picture. Currently, my FB profile pic is my oldest granddaughter signing her tax return; so, someone seeing that could mistake me for a young mother, instead of an old grandmother.

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I have only 4 or 5 that I've never met, all referrals from existing clients. I have met in person with only five clients this year; the rest have dropped off or sent documents electronically.  I've waved or talked briefly with a few from a distance when they showed up in my driveway though.  Of course I did see a few last year before the shut down but none after mid-March, so I really haven't seen most of mine in two years. 

 

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When I started working at the CPA firm where I am now, I was assigned most of the mail-in clients (mostly people who used to live in the area but moved before I got there).  I still do most of them and have never met a single one.  Most have become friends by now; they call or email with tax issues and I respond, yet I wouldn't recognize any of them if they rang my doorbell.  Those clients number a couple dozen probably, but I have met most of my other couple of hundred (and many of the thousand or so other clients I've chatted with in the waiting area or worked on pieces of their returns).  It has always puzzled me why someone would move hundreds of miles away and stick with the same accounting firm.  Are there no accountants in WI or TX or FL or AZ or MA or NY?  I came to realize that once you trust someone with your financial files, that trust is lasting.  Now I'm kind of enjoying not seeing clients in person because of covid, and not seeing photos/videos of their kids, grandkids, vacations etc.  Of course the emails and phone calls probably take up just as much time.  My entire morning today was spent with client contacts instead of with all the returns I hoped to finish up before lunch.

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3 hours ago, Sara EA said:

It has always puzzled me why someone would move hundreds of miles away and stick with the same accounting firm.  Are there no accountants in WI or TX or FL or AZ or MA or NY?  I came to realize that once you trust someone with your financial files, that trust is lasting.

 

We may know more about our clients than any other professional they interact with except maybe the hairdressers.  The doctors, lawyers, and brokers know some pieces of the clients' puzzles, but we know just about all of it and then some - finances, employment problems, medical issues, education, debt troubles, relationship status and drama, all about their kids, vacations, family drama, you name it. Many subjects stem from the range of items that we deal with on the tax returns, and then they feel comfortable sharing all sorts of information!   🙄  🙉

I guess they feel I'm a good listener and am nonjudgmental, and my home office may also allow them to relax and feel more comfortable compared to a more formal office setting. 🤷‍♀️   Some of my clients came from the firm I worked for and I've known them for over 40 years, so it's not hard to know a lot about their lives when the relationship spans many years.  It's sad too, to see how some have declined in their old age or have died. 

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5 hours ago, jklcpa said:

I guess they feel I'm a good listener and am nonjudgmental, and my home office may also allow them to relax and feel more comfortable compared to a more formal office setting.

After a while, they open up to us.  The good things, babies, kids growing up, going to college, grandchildren.  And the bad things too, divorce, drugs, death.

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I've prayed with clients, held them as they sobbed, helped them handle their deceased friend's/relatives' estate, rejoiced with them over kids' graduations and weddings, and more.  I've had clients tell me, "I've told you things I haven't told my therapist."  In some regards, we are more ministers than financial professionals.

Yes, there are good tax pros all over (this group is a great example of just that!) and I've made inquiries, at times, for clients moving who want someone local.  And gotten referrals from here from others in the same boat.  But there are also plenty who move and want to stay with us - the history, familiarity with how we work, already have the file portal account and know how to use it, etc - and we don't refuse them.  And a few who mean to change, then at the last minute come back to the familiar "for now" and some of those eventually leave.

But we certainly end up knowing them better, in many ways, than just about any other professional they deal with.  

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I haven't met at least 1/3-1/2 of my clients, maybe more.  I started specializing in same-sex couple taxes back in 2006 when they were more complicated than heterosexual couples and got clients from all over CA due to my Google advertising.  Now I've moved from CA and get referrals from CA clients that I haven't met.  I have met four of the local clients I've picked up since I moved.

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Used to be at least 90% of them.  But so many new people last year and this who I couldn't meet with, so at best I've seen them from a distance with a mask.  I'm really hoping to be able to meet more of them next year!

I'm lucky, by and large I adore my tax clients.  Most have been here for years, I've seen their kids grow up, etc.  Many of them don't come in after the first year or two, but the ones who do I enjoy chatting with. 

I had an accounting client who closed down last year.  Lives about... 75 miles or so away.  Referred by a mutual friend.  Worked with this couple for 20+ years, never met them.  Had another similar client, but there I had met the husband several times years earlier, by the time the wife came on board we were doing everything by mail, so never met her.

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