Effective communication with clients is critical and can help CPA firms mitigate the risk of a professional liability claim made against them. Indeed, a 1997 University of Chicago study suggested that how a physician communicates with patients influences whether the patient sues the doctor for malpractice after a bad outcome. While a CPA firm's services are quite different from a physician's, CPAs can apply this lesson to their interactions and communications with clients.
Before the Engagement
- Prospecting and proposing – Ask probing questions to give the potential client clarity as to what the types of services you are able to offer.
- Engagement Letters – One of the primary tools to help reduce the expectation gap between client and the CPA. It is often best to discuss the engagement letter with the client rather than send via email.
During the Engagement
- Addressing Issues – Time is rarely a friend when it comes to issue resolution. Discussing items with the client early on will help all parties in the solution.
- Managing Scope – Make sure to confirm the scope of any changes or additional services that the client requests. Document all discussions!
After the Engagement
- Post-Engagement Debriefs – Ask the client for feedback provides an opportunity for the client to ask questions and provide an opportunity for the client to ask questions and provide feedback to use in future engagements.
- Mediation – If a dispute arises, suggest mediation as a first step toward resolution. This is a more formal method of communication and should be agreed upon in advance.
If you have questions regarding this or any other risk management tools please reach out to:
Paul Morris, RPLU, CLU
Mitchell & Mitchell Insurance Agency, Inc.