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Concierge services at store front prices

February 5, 2019

It is unfortunate that some clients complain about fees and it is a distasteful part of being in business.

The reality is that fees must be paid – that is how we earn our living – and that regardless of the client’s perception, most fees are not excessively high. If they were too high we would have long ago ceased to be in business – either because clients could get the same services and value elsewhere at lower prices, or we would have made so much money that we no longer needed to work. When clients think fees are too high it seems there is a disconnect by them with the value of the services. My advice is that if there is no value, or no special value, then go to the lowest priced provider. If there is value, then it should be measured by the cost and alternative providers of the service. The reality is that you cannot get concierge services at store front prices.

Regarding taxes, we sell a product – the tax return – and we also sell an invisible feeling. The value is usually created by the degree of feelings the client places on the invisible we provide. Will we do a better job; keep the client out of trouble; not do something that would cause an audit; and do we go out of our way to make it easy for the client to deal with us and the tax return filing process? Further, will we use the tax return as a guide to perform tax planning for the current and future years, help the client with financial planning or to formulate, determine and crystalize their goals and then present a plan on how their dreams could be realized and implemented; and will we be there if there is a problem or if the client needs us for something extremely critical. No accountant can measure the feeling, but we can control it to some extent by the way we act with the client and react to the client’s concerns and by how we are proactive in helping the client achieve their goals, and feel more confident and more secure.

How we act matters, and how those actions create value to the client is a determining factor in the pricing. Do we price the invisible services with a tag-along product; or do we price the product with the tag-along invisible. I know from experience that pricing the tax return with the tag-along invisible is less costly to the client, and less profitable to me, than the other way around. However, we live in a world where there are much more providers of the tax return than the invisible; but people being people they look more closely at the tangible deliverable, and also that many will not pay much for the invisible if it is sold as a separate service, regardless of the value conferred. The invisible needs to be bundled with the tax return with the pricing reflecting part of the value of the invisible, though not all of it, but the process works. We, i.e. the accountant AND client, are in this for the long haul and it is not necessary to get full payment for full value on every transaction, but the totality of the relationship becomes profitable for both parties. It is a collaboration designed to make the client more knowledgeable, wealthier, more confident and more secure.

Store front tax preparers do a good job on the tax return; but accountants that provide concierge services create sustainable value far in excess of the tangible deliverable for a far longer period than for which the payment is remembered while the benefits become ingrained in the fabric of the client, making the interaction into a value filled relationship which value cannot be separately priced or determined, but which certainly provides extraordinary value to the client.

Of course there are some exceptional clients that recognize the value of the invisible and are willing to engage the accountant for that value, but I believe what I wrote expresses the views of many clients.

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