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Hear that? It's the sound of change

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"The best way to understand people," University of Minnesota professor Ralph Nichols once said, "is to listen to them."

Put another way: Shut your mouth and open your ears once in a while. You might learn how to solve some pretty big problems.

The folks behind the I C Opportunities "movement" understand that. We hung out with them recently in Las Vegas, and what an experience that was. They decided that griping about the shortfalls in their accounting software was useless. Instead, they brought their vendors into the room and are having a conversation with them about how they can work together to better meet their clients' needs.

At least one high-profile vendor is following that lead.

The folks at CCH have enlisted the MACPA's help in holding a "listening forum" on June 26 at the MACPA's Towson offices.

The idea is simple: CCH executives want to know what their customers think about CCH's products, so they're bringing a bunch of their clients to Towson to tell them.

“To understand fully the impact of industry trends and the challenges and opportunities professionals face, you have to talk directly to those people who are on the front lines of firms, day in and day out,” said CCH President and CEO Mike Sabbatis, who'll be in the room in Towson for the MACPA event. “For me, a great way to understand what our customers need is to simply sit down and discuss one-on-one what’s important to them.”

I'm dying to call this move "revolutionary," but in truth, it's not. That would imply that CCH hasn't listened to its customers before now, and that's just wrong. You don't become as big as CCH without listening to your customers.

In fact, the event is just the latest in a number of CCH's other "customer insight initiatives," which include customer advisory boards, customer innovation labs, contextual design initiatives, surveys, and the CCH Connections User Conference.

What's different here is the very public way in which CCH is listening. Dozens of customers will be telling CCH executives exactly what they think on the 26th, and the MACPA will be sharing some of the details via Twitter and, later, in this blog.

And it doesn't end there. The Maryland session is the first stop on a CCH "Listening Tour," with additional sessions planned for later this year in Chicago and California.

Now that's revolutionary. And who knows? It might just bring some meaningful change that truly benefits CPA clients.

Really, isn't that what we all want?

Stay tuned for details from the session. I'll be a fly on the wall and will share all the really good parts.

In the meantime, keep this in mind: If you're a CCH shop, you're invited. Firms of all sizes are welcome to attend. The session will be held from 8 a.m. to noon on June 26 at the MACPA's offices in Towson.

Stick around for the Summit
If you're coming to the CCH listening forum, you'll want to stick around for the MACPA's 2012 Innovation Summit, which will be held the following day (June 27) at Martin's West in Baltimore. The event will feature sessions on XBRL, health care, social media, future-ready firms, tax, accounting and auditing, and more. Get complete details and register here.

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