(or as one client refers to it – autopsy)
For as many years as I can remember, my team and I always did a post tax season beef and bouquet team meeting where we would discuss the good, the bad and the ugly related to the tax season we just experienced. This meeting was invaluable in really allowing me as the owner and CEO of my practice in providing me with great ideas on how to make this extremely stressful time of year less stressful, more fun, more productive, and more profitable year after year. And I dare say that these beef and bouquet meetings have tremendously impacted our ability to make tax season the best it can be. We still, from time to time, still have those “tax season from hell”, but they’re less frequent and more often are due to outside forces we could not predict or control.
Our beef and bouquet meeting evolved with time, but whenever I recommend firms do this, here’s the formula I suggest.
I recommend that this meeting be done in six parts as follows:
Give everyone on your team an opportunity to vent. You want your team to bring up everything that they did not like or enjoy, caused them stress, and anything else they think the team needs to work on and find solutions for.
Let’s not forget the things that went well. Even during those “tax season from hell” will always give rise to good things. Processes that worked well and possibly better than anticipated, people who went above the call of duty, clients who really praised your efforts, etc. Always good for everyone to hear about the wins.
Now you’d think that if you’ve given everyone an opportunity to vent, you’d be done. But what tends to happen, the first venting session you did above will generally mostly bring the really big problems to the surface. Smaller problems requiring tweaks may be missed. So, this is why I tend to ask the team to think about each of the following steps of the process and think about more beefs and bouquets related to each of these:
How did the process of people dropping off their information go?
Recording of intake process
- Were you able to capture and record the income workload efficiently?
- Were you able to properly record any changes in address, emails or phone numbers
- Did you pay attention to client wants and needs?
- How did you deal with the client concerns?
- How was the discussion and quoting fees?
Was all the information there when the time came to do it? If not, why not?
Review and final review process
Printing, assembling, and invoicing process
Delivery of goods process. Whether it be in person or by email.
Any fee resistance from clients? Any push-back of concern?
It is always a good idea to talk about the software. Items that are worth sharing and discussing include:
- Weaknesses and problems that need to be brought to software developer’s attention.
- Items you discovered software could do that maybe some in the team don’t know.
- Items you particularly liked about the software.
Is there anything firm could and should be doing to improve client experience in dealing with your firm.
- What were the most common complaint from clients and is there anything that could be done to improve?
- Is there anything firm could do that would really impress the clients?
- Is there anything firm could do that would really set the firm apart from all competitors from a client experience point of view?
- Anything other firms are doing that is impressive and would be well received if this firm implemented?
- Any billing push-back of concern?
This is where you pour back through all discussions that’s been had so far and you discuss possible solutions for each for next tax season. The best time to talk about solutions is when the problems are so fresh and clear in our minds.
Taking notes: Something that is critical is to ensure this team meeting brings maximum value to your practice is that you take good notes of all that was discussed. The good things, to ensure what was good is done again next year, and of course, all the bad and the recommended solutions. This must all be in writing, so you remember the following year. This exercise is not worth the time unless you plan to implement any of the recommended changes into practice.
Implementation: I generally recommend that accounting practices with a decent tax preparation component do a “tax refresher day” a few weeks before each tax season where you discuss changes in the tax rules from last year, errors most seen when reviewing returns last year, and things everyone should know going into tax season. Part of this tax refresher day should include discussions on how to make this year better than ever. And this is where you bring out last year’s beefs and bouquets. You discuss all that did not go well last year as well as all that did, the changes that was recommended in May and discuss whether the proposed solutions are still the best plan. Or whether those solutions require some tweaking.
At Talbot & Associates, they process more than 8,000 T1’s every year. The process is quite refined but that came from constant refinement and changes made throughout the years. Most of the refinements were discussions in the post tax season beef and bouquet team meetings.
If you decide to schedule a post tax season beef and bouquet for your team and it results in problems for which you haven’t got a good solution, please call me. I’d be happy to possibly shed some light of possible solutions for some of your more difficult challenges.
And don’t facilitate the meeting yourself (or take notes). As an owner, you need to pay attention to what is said and share your feedback as well. If you’re interested, please don’t hesitate to call.
RPM offers the service of facilitating this beef and bouquet discussion, allowing the owner to pay better attention to what is said, and allowing me to share some of the solutions we’ve developed over the past 35 years of doing personal tax returns.