How Accounting Firms Can Effectively Reply to Client Emails

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.

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. If you’re looking for an even simpler solution Outpost lets you save response templates that can be added to a message with just a couple of clicks. 

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5. Increase transparency and collaboration with a shared inbox tool

If you still find yourself struggling to manage your inbox, you may want to consider using a shared inbox. Instead of forwarding messages around, or emailing about emails a tool like Outpost lets you add internal comments to any email, assign other team members to look at them, suggest wording for replies, and share templated responses for frequently asked questions. 

No more logging in and out of a company inbox. No need for multiple tabs for each email address. Just a streamlined process where your entire team can be involved.

Here’s just one example of how some accounting firms do this in Outpost. Each person manages their own personal mailbox, and the whole team shares mailboxes for each client.

Outpost streamlines collaboration by having your full team work within a single platform.

While all team members have access to all shared mailboxes, you might have one or two team members dedicated to managing specific client mailboxes. The result in Outpost is the same: your team gets to log into a centralized place to see and manage everything together.

Organize your team and your email with Outpost

Most teams struggle to manage email efficiently. Missed messages, duplicate replies, and hours wasted sifting through email. Traditional email was simply not designed for teams. That’s why we built Outpost. 

With Outpost, your team can work together in the same inbox, without sharing passwords or stepping on each other’s toes. Outpost is easy to use because managing email and responding to clients should be. It’s time to make email truly collaborative, easily keep your inbox organized, and take better care of your customers.

If you’re interested, you can start a free trial of Outpost today, or schedule a custom tour to learn how Outpost will help you save time and get more done. 

Posted in: Customer Service

Jonathan Michael

Jonathan Michael

Jonathan is the Engagement Marketing Manager for Palo Alto Software, and has spent the last 9 years developing and implementing digital marketing strategies. During that time, he has learned that empathy and authenticity are strengths by which companies can effectively engage with individuals at every point throughout the customer journey.

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