9 Soft Skills to Look for when Hiring an Accountant

best accountants

What clients say about the best accountants

What is it that makes the best accountants the best? If you’re an accountant this makes mandatory reading. If you’re a client or prospective client, you can treat this as a checklist to ensure you’re getting the best service!


In our 2017 survey, we asked clients “What did [your firm] do particularly well?”

Filtering for the best accountants (winners of our Awards), we then analysed 250 responses to get an indication of what clients appreciated in their high performing firms. These responses were categorised into themes, which are reflected in the attributes below.

Figure 1: “What did [your firm] do particularly well?”

As expected, ‘hard’ attributes like Expertise, Fast Service and Results prevailed, representing 40% of positive mentions in clients’ comments.

However, a host of ‘soft’ attributes had a high recall when reflecting upon client satisfaction, including:

  1. Professionalism (Conducting themselves ethically and professionally)
  2. Care for Clients (Going the extra mile, demonstrated care for the clients’ needs)
  3. Friendly Service (Friendliness and approach-ability of accountants and support staff)
  4. Effective Communication (Easy to understand advice)
  5. Responsiveness (Returning emails and phone calls promptly)
  6. Proactive Service (Anticipating client needs and getting in contact)
  7. Reliability (Delivering work on time and on budget)
  8. Availability (Being willing and able to answer queries at short notice)
  9. Flexible Service (Delivering work on the clients’ terms)

Note, this is not the rank order of importance. Rather, it is simply a depiction of how frequently clients mentioned a firm’s strengths. Broadly speaking, ‘soft’ skills are mentioned more than ‘hard’ skills.

Figure 2: Soft Skills are mentioned more by clients when they are asked “What did [your firm] do particularly well?”

This is meaningful, because they aren’t prompted in the same way we prompt clients when we ask them to rate firms out of 10 on a certain behaviour.


Surprisingly, the competitiveness of the top firms’ fees made up only 1% of mentions by the clients’ of the best firms. This should give firms pause for thought: pricing is rarely an explicit driver of client satisfaction. This suggests that the best accountants may be able to charge more than their competitors. This finding should be interpreted with caution, however. It only accounts for clients’ descriptions of firms’ ‘Pros’, not their ‘Cons’.

This is intuitive, but in an increasingly commoditised market, firms are often reticent about charging premium prices. One way to overcome this may be fixed fees: our research also suggests that fee structure (rather than level) is a significant driver of client satisfaction.

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