Best Practices for
Remote Tax Roles
For remote tax jobs, being comfortable with video conferencing is a normal day-to-day expectation and need. The advice below illustrates how you can be sure that you’re using video conferencing and the new hard skills effectively.
Create a Video Conferencing Home Office
In order to qualify for remote tax jobs, you’ll need a home office. You’ll need the right technology, and a place where you can look good on camera.
The Right Technology
You could set up a state-of-the-art video conferencing area in your home office that includes a separate web cam, microphone, headset, lighting, and a screen to put behind you as a background. But, here’s the technology you’ll need to get started:
- A modern computer with a built-in camera, microphones, and speakers
- The fastest internet you can afford and Wi-Fi for any equipment that isn’t wired directly into your computer
If you have a powerful computer and fast internet access, you should automatically have the capability to do video conferencing.
The Right Set Environment
Even though you’ll be working from home, you still want to appear professional. These tips will help you create an effective video conferencing set.
- Establish a place to do video conferencing that is neat, free of clutter, and away from distractions.
- The best place to position lighting is in front of you as you’re facing the computer. If it looks like you’re sitting in a dark room when you’re on camera, your customers will be uncomfortable talking to you. If you don’t have a window or other light source in front of you, putting a lamp on either side of where you’ll sit might be the solution.
- Position yourself so that the video will show you from your waist or shoulders to your head. If you’re too close to the camera, looking at you will be overwhelming. If you’re too far away, it will be difficult for your customers to see your face.
- When you talk to your customers, you’ll want to look them in the eye. That can be tricky on a video call because you must look at the camera to look your customers in the eye. Place your camera at eye level to avoid this problem.
You’ll also need to consider what to wear while on camera for remote tax jobs. The customers have expectations that they are working with a tax professional, so business casual is the most suitable casual! But be sure to find out what your employer prefers.
Before you start work, you should check your connection, audio, video, and camera placement. Many meeting services have test options, and your employer may have one, too. If not, try joining a test meeting on Zoom to check the operation of your audio and video. In addition, check your light placement, the placement of your computer camera, and your chair to ensure that you are centered in the frame at the correct distance.
Set Expectations for Each Meeting
Remote tax jobs require answering questions from a customer. You can’t create a detailed agenda beforehand, but you can set your customer’s expectations for the interaction. You might start by introducing yourself and telling the customer that you’ll be glad to help them with their questions, even if you need to do some research to ensure they have the correct information. That will set the customer’s expectations, and they won’t be surprised if you do need to do some research.
If you’re helping your customer prepare their return make sure they understand what the process will consist of and where you are in that process at the beginning of each meeting.
Use Active Listening Skills
Your customers aren’t tax experts, and they may not be able to express themselves in the terms you are accustomed to hearing. Therefore, it’s critical that you’re communicating effectively.
When you use active listening techniques, the first thing is to make sure you listen closely to the customer rather than thinking about what you’re going to say next. Take notes as your customer talks to keep your mind focused. Then, review what you heard with the customer to make sure you’re both on the same page.
Keep Your Meetings Friendly but Not Too Friendly
You want to establish a trusting relationship with your customers. Therefore, you should come across as a friendly person who is easy to talk to. However, if you get too familiar, the customer may think you’re being disrespectful or taking too much of their time.
Your customers will usually need to discuss confidential information with you, such as their salary, investments, or whether they are on unemployment. Treat that information as data that you need for their return without asking questions or making comments that aren’t related to filing taxes.
Empathize with Your Customers
Empathizing with your customers will help you to build a trusting relationship. Try putting yourself in their shoes and imagine the challenges they have in their lives and how that affects their taxes and how they interact with you. Also, keep in mind that your customers are probably already feeling overwhelmed, and they may not enjoy that feeling. You will need to help them feel more in control.
You may be a cheerful person, but even if you’re not, make a concerted effort to appear that way when talking to customers. For remote tax jobs, customers will respond to your upbeat approach, and it will help lighten their mood also.
Even if you run into problems, you can use positive language to explain the problem to your customer. Rather than saying “I just don’t have an answer for that question. I’ll have to poke around and see if I can find an answer,” try something more like “That is a great question, and I’ll do the research and get right back to you with an answer.”
Don’t Use Jargon
Every business or activity, and even age group, has its own language. If you’re an accountant, you might use the term “due diligence” to mean research. If you’re a computer expert, you might use the term “cache” to mean short-term memory. If you’re a Baby Boomer, you might say that doing taxes is a “drag” to mean that it’s boring.
Since your customers aren’t tax experts, keep heavy tax jargon out of your vocabulary. The same is true for computer terminology. If you need to direct a client’s attention to something on the monitor, don’t just ask them to click on the Account link, try something like, “Click on the link in the upper right corner of your monitor that says Account.”
And, don’t be surprised if your customer assures you that there is no such link. You might need to point out something that is easy to find and tell them where the Account link is in relation to it. Try something like, “Do you see your name in the upper right corner of the screen? Great! The Account link is just below that.”
Quickly Summarize Your Meeting
At the end of your discussion, summarize what you talked about and determine whether you’ve answered all their questions. It’s also helpful to identify the next steps either you or the customer need to complete. For example, you could say something like, “So, you’ll locate your receipts for your charitable contributions and add the amounts to your return.”
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