Are your clients confused?


Clients commonly get confused with reports.

One of the most confusing aspects of a financial report is when accountants provide data without context. A 5% increase in revenue from last month sounds impressive — but is it? Is the growth taking in the 10% increase in the cost of goods or the additional employees? Though there was a 5% increase in revenue, is your client realizing they dropped 8% in net profit?

A much more powerful report would quickly highlight these data points and stimulate questions like: What was it that increased our revenue but decreased our profit? What is it that we need to change?

Report stimulation is vital to the longevity of a business.

For most businesses, spreadsheets are confusing and do not stimulate the questions that a business owner needs to ask.  

Ensure your clients understand their reports.

When I look through reports provided by accountants, two things stand out to me—Confusing spreadsheet data and over-my-head jargon.

Accounting is like any other industry; it has a language all its own and hidden codes that can not be deciphered by simply using the red decoder in the bottom of a crackerjack box. (Yes, I am that old).

Many of the words accountants use sound like gibberish to their clients and most reports are difficult to understand with all its rows and columns.

Clients don’t want to look stupid, so instead of asking for clarification, they nod their heads in agreeance. With this act of approval, the accountant moves forward with big words and bigger datasets. 

When developing reports, take the time to define, clarify and even use analogies to help your clients understand their data in the simplest of forms. Pull the data from your spreadsheet and highlight it with a chart that puts the data in context.

Charts are amazing for quickly giving meaning to data.

Be cautious when selecting which metric you use for each data set. Don’t use visual metrics just for the sake of it. Choose charts and graphs that increase data awareness.

Some typical chart options

Bar Chart: Good for comparing categories of data such as monthly expenses.

Pie Chart: Good for showing parts of a whole, such as Cost of Goods for specific products.

Line Chart: Good for showing changes over time, such as increases in total revenue or decreases in expenses. 

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Help your clients by knowing their business.

It starts at the very beginning, a very good place to start. When your read, you begin with ABC. When you report, you start with UCB.

What Julie Andrews suggests for singing is what I suggest for building reports. Start with the basics rules and the basic rule for reporting is to  Understand your Client’s Business (UCB) first.

When you understand your client’s business you can master client communication by providing the data they need to make wise business decisions. 

The best way to help your clients understand their reports is to understand their business first. Make sure you discover their needs as early as you can. Implement the metrics that matter the most to them and make no assumptions. Make suggestions yes, but never assume.

Once you develop a solid report, make sure you provide some new surprising metrics each month directed especially to their business. Providing just one new metric lets your clients know you care about their business while keeping them engaged. This will help your clients make better data-driven decisions.

Simplify the reporting process.

Building reports should not deplete your resources at the end of the month. Rather, reports should be easy to generate while showcasing your firm’s communication skills and core competencies.

Accountants provide extended, detailed spreadsheet reporting that, unfortunately, clients don’t understand and never read. For most accountants, this is frustrating. 

When you provide reports make sure you Kiss your clients by Keeping It Simple & Straightforward.

There are several SaaS options that can automate report building. Solutions range from restrictive boilerplate reports to fully customizable solutions that can differentiate your firm

Reach Reporting’s automation and customization change the reporting game. Quickly automate financial statements then generate a visual report that highlights financial data as digestible bite-sized metrics that enhances your clients understanding of their financial data.


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Set expectations.

The first report you provide your client should include a dedicated call to walk them through the format, jargon clarification (hopefully, there is not a lot), and data they should expect.

Additional reports should include a call that is a simple highlight of the necessary data you would like to bring to their attention for that period and to ensure your client is still satisfied with your deliverables. 

As always, ask intelligent questions to help them articulate any questions or concerns they might have. By being short and sweet, show your client that you respect their time. They will notice and appreciate your directness. 

Remember — what they don’t tell you will affect your revenue.

I would suggest any time the format of your report changes, take the time to discuss those changes with them so they will not be frustrated with the new layout. 


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