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Merriam-Webster’s word of the year and your client service strategy

Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting  

· 5 minute read

Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting  

· 5 minute read

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icon-orange abcs   What does “authentic” mean?

  How can embracing authenticity guide your firm’s client service initiatives?

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  Making authenticity a priority in your client service strategy

Earlier this week, Merriam-Webster announced its word of the year for 2023. The winner? Authentic.

An NPR article on the announcement raises a number of interesting points on why “authentic” became popular this year. But it got us thinking about what it could mean on a practical level for accounting firms – especially with regard to their client relationships.

If “authentic” was one of the most highly searched words on, were your clients among the people searching for it? And, if so, what answer were they looking for in their queries? It’s worth considering that, if “authentic” was among the most highly searched words in 2023, that the search intent could go much further than simply wanting a clear definition.

After all, “authentic” is not a new word that would be unfamiliar to most people. Unlike “woot” in 2007 or “gaslighting” in 2022, “authentic” and “authenticity” have been part of the American lexicon for centuries. So, what’s driving this renewed interest in authenticity? As a tax and accounting professional, you should be concerned with all of the possibilities – especially the ones implying a client’s desire for an authentic relationship with you and your firm.

What does “authentic” mean?

If we take a look at Merriam-Webster’s definition of “authentic,” it’s clear that it can mean several different things, depending on the context:

Authentic: adjective

1: not false

an authentic cockney accent

2: true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character

is sincere and authentic with no pretensions

3a: worthy of acceptance or belief as  to or based on fact

paints an authentic picture of our society

3b: conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features

an authentic reproduction of a colonial farmhouse

3c: made or done the same way as an original

authentic Mexican fare

If we look across the majority of definitions, the overriding theme is connected to the idea of something “real.”

How can embracing authenticity guide your firm’s client service initiatives?

If the large volume of searches for the word “authentic” does, in fact, indicate a global desire for more authenticity, especially in the age of artificial intelligence, your firm should be taking steps to make the client experience as authentic as possible. Let’s take a closer look at some possible strategies:

Conduct in-person meetings with your tax and accounting clients

In the hybrid working world that’s developed over the past few years, many businesses have adapted to phone calls, online meetings, email, or other types of remote communication. What might be more of an unknown is what client preferences are with the return of – at least partial – in-office work across most industries.

If you have a client who typically preferred meeting in person in the past, put that option back on the table. You might find that it has the potential to rejuvenate stagnant client relationships and further strengthen even the strongest ones.

Send personalized communications

It might seem like a somewhat minor step, but personalizing communications and deliverables can go a long way toward helping clients feel cared for rather than being a name on a list. It’s a small extra step that can bring miles of goodwill when it’s done consistently and sincerely.

Ask clients what they want

This point might sound straightforward, but it truly goes to the heart of client service. In the tax and accounting industry, the goal is to provide clients with the best possible outcome for their business needs. But every relationship is different. And every client has their own feelings about how they would like the relationship to develop.

Take the time to learn about how your clients feel about the current state of the relationship. Ask them if there is anything that they would like to see handled differently, or if they seek business advice. In 2023, 93% of tax and accounting firms said their clients are now looking for some form of advisory services.

While it’s impossible to accommodate every request from every client, these conversations are a good starting point for you to get an idea of what’s working in your client service model and where there might be room for change.

Don’t forget about the knowledge and needs of your own team

One other important aspect of this conversation about authenticity should be keeping your team in mind throughout the evaluation and implementation of any new client service strategy. There may be no other place where authenticity is more important than with your own frontline staff.

Get their input on how they provide superior client service, and let them have a voice in the development of a new strategy. Their work directly with clients can help to uncover some best practices that could be implemented across the business and work well for all your clients. Additionally, it could also help to ensure that their personal work preferences are considered as part of the new client service initiative.

Making authenticity a priority in your client service strategy

Take some time in the coming weeks and months to consider the implications of Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2023. Think about how you can bring more authenticity to your client relationships and interactions – and how authenticity can elevate your firm’s client service.

Learn more about Thomson Reuters tax and accounting solutions and how they can support your client service initiatives.

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