Academic journal article Management Accounting Quarterly

Delivering Quality Accounting Services

Academic journal article Management Accounting Quarterly

Delivering Quality Accounting Services

Article excerpt

ARE YOUR ACCOUNTING SERVICES GIVING MAXIMUM HELP TO YOUR CUSTOMERS? A STUDY PERFORMED WITHIN A LARGE CORPORATION ILLUSTRATES HOWYOU CAN MEASURE THE QUALITY OF YOUR ACCOUNTING SUPPORT AND IDENTIFY SERVICE EXPECTATION GAPS.

Most of an organization's accounting resources usually are devoted to providing services to other members of the organization. Managers and other employees throughout the firm rely on accounting as their primary source of information services. Management accounting service providers, however, in order to provide the right services to their customers, need to understand whether their perspectives on accounting services differ from the users' perspectives and, if so, how. By asking accounting service providers and users a few simple questions, management can learn a great deal about the satisfaction level of accounting's internal customers and how accounting services might be improved.

Successful companies place customer satisfaction at the top of their list of priorities. Customers expect value, high quality, and low cost, and suppliers strive to provide customers with what they want. Organizations can apply a customer service focus to the delivery of internal services, such as accounting, to great benefit.

Unfortunately, the work of management accountants remains a mystery to most of its customers. The efficiency and effectiveness of accounting services, as well as customer satisfaction, are largely unknown in most organizations except for the occasional word-of-mouth communication. Few top managers are familiar with the range of accounting services provided by their organization and, as a result, the accountant's work may not be closely scrutinized. Top management tends to focus on the legal and regulatory requirements of accounting, so if problems are not brought to management's attention, there is little motivation for management to analyze the accounting function more closely. This state of affairs may mean that the information needs of accounting's internal customers are not being met.

In order to obtain objective views about the quality of accounting services, accounting management may use external consultants or independent internal evaluations. By following the steps described in this article, firms can improve management accounting services and achieve a number of benefits, including improved management of the accounting function, more effective allocation of accounting resources, improved communications between providers and users, and higher service quality and customer satisfaction levels.

QUALITY ACCOUNTING SERVICES AND THE ACCOUNTING SERVICE DELIVERY GAP

Value, fitness for use, and excellence are all accepted definitions of quality. Traditionally, these definitions are associated with tangible products, while accounting is primarily an information service. The quality of information may be measured by accuracy, completeness, relevance, and timeliness. Service industry commentators and scholars judge the only appropriate definition of quality as meeting or exceeding the expectations of customers.

Quality accounting services are those that customers use frequently and consider important in carrying out their work. The result of quality service delivery is a high level of customer satisfaction. In turn, satisfied information customers are likely to view quality information as important and frequently used. If providers and users are on the same page so that there is a good match between the delivered service and internal customers' expectations, decision making will be timelier and more accurate. This congruence can result in significant strategic advantages to the organization.

To date, we know very little about the level of agreement on service quality between accounting service providers and users. It is important to examine both perspectives for several reasons. First, the quality of any service, although ultimately determined by the customer, is the product of provider efforts based on perceptions of user expectations. …

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