When it comes to choosing an accountant, a client wants reassurance that they’re dealing with a professional who can confidently look after their books and finances.

For this reason visual branding is a key part of the marketing agenda for accounting firms. Human buying behavior is easily influenced by an organization’s visual identity. If it isn’t of the highest standard and doesn’t portray expertise and reliability, it could be off-putting for potential and existing clients.

PHMG on-hold marketing technology
Photo: PHMG

The way a company sounds is equally as important. For accountants, the telephone often represents the first point of contact with the customer, demonstrating its worth as a vital means of converting leads to sales.

Yet recent research by PHMG shows the industry may be lagging when it comes to providing a positive caller experience. The study of 2,234 Americans discovered just 24 percent of consumers are satisfied with the way accountants handle their phone calls, less than the national average of 32 percent.

First impressions count and when a customer first picks up the telephone, their ears are their only tool for forming an initial judgment. What’s more, the same research found 59 percent of respondents wouldn’t buy from an organization if their first call wasn’t handled according to their expectations, indicating how a poor telephone experience can influence profitability.

Naturally, if faced with an impolite employee, it could leave a lasting negative perception in the caller’s mind, which is difficult to shake. As such, formulating a set of best-practice guidelines that teach staff how to answer the phone and the kind of tone and manner that is expected represents the best start to enhance the customer experience.

Avoid Caller Boredom

However, shaping staff behavior isn’t the only aspect to consider when it comes to how your business sounds.

Waiting on-hold is an annoyance for many and regularly attracts negative publicity due to horror stories about customers being left waiting in an automated queue for long periods of time.

Understandably, it is often impossible for organizations to avoid putting callers on hold. A caller to an accounting firm may have a specialized query that can only be answered by a certain employee or perhaps information is requested on accounting software that isn’t readily at hand.

When subjected to repetitive beeps, poor muzak or even silence, even a small amount of time spent on hold can feel like a significant wait to consumers. In fact, a study discovered 70 percent of callers will hang up within 60 seconds if faced with silence on hold.

Not only does this spell danger for the company in terms of caller retention, but it also reflects badly on the brand as using generic sounds leaves customers disengaged and feeling unappreciated by the organization.

Feeling Valued

Essentially, putting a customer on hold results in “dead air,” a useless space filled with meaningless sounds or silence.

By implementing customized voice and music messages that correspond with the existing values of the business, this space can be transformed into a golden opportunity to speak to the audience on a more personal level while conveying a more professional image.

Tailoring the messages to the company’s customer base also helps to reduce hang-ups by 79 percent while improving engagement. Research by PHMG actually discovered 65 percent of Americans feel more valued if they hear customized messages while on hold, meaning customer service levels are boosted.

What many accountants fail to realize is that, unlike its visual counterpart, on-hold marketing is particularly effective in up-selling and cross-selling business services in an unobtrusive manner.

A caller may ring up to inquire about bookkeeping and payroll services for their company, only to be informed that the accountants also offer financial planning, for which they were going to go elsewhere.

The messages could also promote industry accreditations, such as ACCA, to reassure customers that the organization is trustworthy and reliable and that the future of their business is in safe hands.

To help solidify the firm as a leading, knowledgeable accountancy source, messages could be used to communicate new industry legislation updates, important financial calendar dates or even snippets of impartial advice and practical tips.

The impact of sound as a marketing and branding tool should not be ignored given its clear effect on the consumer. Ensuring the audio experience is just as good as the visual one helps the accounting firm ensure a competitive edge, along with increased sales opportunities and a higher level of customer service. Accountants would be wise to consider audio as an essential part of their marketing mix.

Mark Williamson

Mark Williamson is CEO of