Learning from my clients

Although it seems pretty obvious, now, I am fortunate that one of my first clients is both a) relatively easy going, b) not afraid to voice his opinion. Yes, I know, there are a lot of IPs of whom that could be said, but too many years as an ICAEW reviewer may have made me forget the “easy-going” side.

Anyway, I had been trying to avoid pestering A for his response to the report – I didn’t want to seem too needy, but two weeks on, I finally gave him a call. The conversation went something like this –

Me – “Hi A. How’s things? Did you get to read the report and are you satisfied with it?

A – “Fine and yes, but my staff haven’t yet had time to check through all the points.”

Me – “Well, that’s okay. Anything major you think might have been misinterpreted?”

A – “Yes. We don’t agree on xxxxxxx and on the VAT thing, we are pretty sure you missed an email, but we haven’t yet had the time to find it.”

Me – “Mmmm – that could change the balance of the report quite a bit. Maybe you should let me have your findings when you’ve got them and I’ll look at a re-draft.”

A – “Well that is what happens with the ICAEW reviews, but I don’t want to have to pull people off other stuff for a couple of days to find these things right away. I’ve got a practice to run, too.”

The conversation went on, exploring what we could do that would not involve disrupting his staff and also wouldn’t involve endless and therefore costly meetings with me to deal with things I hadn’t seen, or with differences of opinion. The result is a really good improvement for my reporting process which I intend to incorporate wherever there is time to do so[1].

  1. Instead of issuing a final report within three working days (as I have done up to now) I’ll issue a draft.
  2. The firm will then have four to six weeks in which to – check for what I may have missed or misunderstood – rectify the most immediate errors on cases – draw up a plan for dealing with changes to systems. This not only avoids the disruption involved in dealing with everything more urgently, but will also give the IP the chance to do remedial training with the staff, on their live files, which is always going to be more effective than a purely class-room seminar will be.
  3. The firm will let me have a summary of those three things (my mistakes, their corrections and any longer term plans) at the end of that six weeks, to incorporate into a final report.

Of course, if there are very few issues and they are all pretty simple, the extra time finalising the report won’t be much. But if it does require an extra couple of hours to redraft, it will still be worth the extra cost for a more complete report to the RPB. At the least, it should void that opening comment I heard so often as an RPB reviewer,”I know it says that in xxx’s report, but we later found yyyy and zzzz, to show they’d misinterpreted it.” This is not just awkward – the reviewer will usually need to see the relevant papers and he/she may have to alter the plan for the visit, which is not a great way to start.

Thanks, A.

[1] Different RPBs have different rules on when they need to see the evidence of a review and there may be issues that need urgent discussion and resolution, so this may not always be possible.

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