I'll Take A Human Any Day

Getting things done is still better when there’s a face (and a heart and mind) involved

Photo by Todd Huffman via    Flickr   .

Photo by Todd Huffman via Flickr.


When it really counts, give me a real person over a computer.

It’s the height of tax season and if there ever was a time of year where I rely on equipment and electronic resources, it’s now. These days, without software and calculators, this season would be hard to face, let alone fathom.

That said, for over 20 years, what I really I relied on during this time of year was the same accountant. He helped me navigate this season (and several phases of my professional life) with steadiness and confidence. When he retired, all I could think of was, “what will I do now?”

The idea of preparing my return without an accountant’s help was unthinkable. The question was not “Could I do this on my own?” but rather. “Who will I choose to do this with me?” I asked friends and colleagues for referrals. More than anything else I might look for, I sought a reliable partner. Someone with a combination of competence (as far as I could ascertain), consistency and communication compatibility. For me, that meant someone who was accessible, responsive, and open to having a dialogue.

In chronological order…

Enter CPA referral #1. I left her a voicemail. She never called me back. Exit #1.

Enter CPA referral #2. He was responsive, engaging and seemed to be very comprehensive in his approach to returns. He was happy to meet in person, which I had been doing with my previous accountant. The only glitch was that his fee was a big reach for me: definitely outside my budget.

Enter CPA #3. He seemed very nice, if not a bit of a mystery. Even though there were a few times I needed to follow-up in order to get a call back, when we actually connected he was very communicative. His fee was in my price range. Plus, we could even meet up in person, which was very reassuring.

I thought about CPA’s #2 and #3 over and over. Because numbers are so impersonal, let’s call them Sam and Alec, respectively. Connecting with Sam was the easiest experience. Everything went smoothly. As for Alec, things started on uncertain ground; I needed to call back a couple times to get things sorted, and then we bounced back with a great phone call. Plus, there was no stress in affording his services.

After sitting with my gut and my head, I decided to give Alec a chance, stay within my budget, and see if the great phone call was the true reflection of how our communication would be, rather than the shaky start.

It wasn’t.

Within a day or two of starting the ball rolling, the earlier hiccups in communication returned. Things went south quickly and it was clear we were not a fit. We parted ways. I was relieved that I could now go with my first choice, Sam, knowing I had tried to stay within my budget, and it just didn’t work out.

I’m pretty sure most, if not all, accountants use the same software and require the same information from clients to do their job. But the difference a real human makes can be as big as the one between night and day.