Improving the Profession's Grade Means Returning to Basics

Article excerpt

A recent survey showed that although the integrity of the accounting profession is not questioned (the Enron/Andersen scandal notwithstanding), overall customer satisfaction has been neglected. The survey, conducted by NFO WorldGroup and released in April, shows mixed feelings about the virtues of using the same vendor for both auditing and consuiting. Highlights include:

* High marks to auditors for trust, commitment to personal ethics, and business integrity.

* Low scores on performance in experience, ability to rely on staff, responsiveness/dedication, and competency in understanding financial structures.

The study surveyed companies that purchase outside accounting services. The results were compared to a database of results from more than 1,500 studies and 2.6 million interviews across all business sectors.

The results showed that businesses using outside auditors give the profession an overall score of 61 (a D grade). General business-to-business services averaged 80 (B), and top performing businesses with the strongest relationships fell in the range of 90 to 100 (A).

The low rating is reflected in client evaluation of auditor performance. Fifty-five percent of the respondents ranked overall performance of their auditor as "excellent" or "very good," compared to the 70-75% typically seen in survey results for professional services. Similarly, only 55% said they definitely or probably would recommend their auditors to business colleagues, versus the 75-80% typically seen for professional services.

Respondents did, however, give auditors high marks on the following statements:

* Company I can trust

* Employees that are committed to personal ethics

* Culture of business integrity

* Commitment to maintaining a position of independence as an auditor. …