UNDERSTAND YOUR INTERNAL CUSTOMERS

Failing to Understand Your Internal Customers Leads to Poor Client Service

Does each partner in your firm operate like they are a sole practitioner? Worse yet, do other layers of your organization operate in independent silos? If so, it's safe to assume your firm is leaving efficiencies and increased profitability on the table. And in a tough economic climate, that can be devastating.  

Let's face it - we all have our preferred processes and methods to get our work done. This is not a new phenomenon in public accounting firms. Traditionally, accountants have focused solely on their role in the process. If something went wrong, like poor realization on the job or quality issues, it was always someone else's fault. They'd tell someone else to get their act together and work harder. They may even comment, "If only everyone else worked like I do, we'd be much better off." Sound familiar? 

Operating as One

Well, that mindset is starting to change as firms realize that in order to have efficient and effective processes they need to look globally. And a global look at a particular process in your firm means understanding the intricacies of internal customer relationships and the needs desired by external customers. Internal customers are simply defined as anybody who will touch the work product after it leaves your desk - that could be a staff person you just gave review comments to or the administrative person who will be processing and assembling financial statements. Working together is key. You need to operate as one unit and not as a bunch of individuals.

Where to Start

If you haven't sat down and formally identified your processes and the needs of your internal customers at each step along the way, now is a great time to do so. The end of the 2009 busy season is around the corner, and all of the things that went wrong are fresh in everyone's mind. Communicating these issues is the first step. A skilled facilitator can help identify the needs from every step in the process.

You will be amazed at what you find. You will hear about the inefficiencies created by having each reviewer employ their own unique preferences, which lead to excess WIP. You will learn that the extra 10 minutes you spend formatting for your administrative team is actually wasted time. And most importantly, you will learn that developing consistency in a process is a way to meet everyone's need - even if that means slightly changing the way you have personally done things for 20 years.  

Why wouldn't you want to make your process more effective internally to better serve your clients and increase your profitability?

Lean CPA
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