The Role of Communication Mode in Auditor-Client Interactions: Insights from Staff Auditors.
Current Issues in Auditing,
April (2nd Quarter/Spring)
Research suggests that staff auditors are more comfortable interacting with client personnel through email than face-to-face and that this choice of communication mode has the potential to impact audit outcomes. However, very little is known about how staff auditors choose a communication mode and the effects of this choice on their interactions with clients. Therefore, we present survey-based evidence on staff auditors’ experiences interacting with audit clients and the role of communication mode in these interactions. We find that while the majority of staff auditors <i>prefer</i> to interact with the client face-to-face, the communication mode <i>used</i> most frequently is split relatively equally between FTF and email. When choosing a communication mode, auditors who primarily communicate face-to-face place greater value on client relationship building, clients’ communication mode preferences, and the ability to ask follow-up questions compared to auditors who mostly use email. Further, auditors who prefer email over face-to-face interactions report feeling more communication anxieties related to being less knowledgeable and experienced than the client. Audit firms interested in encouraging auditors to use face-to-face communication more frequently can use the results of our study to help them understand the factors influencing staff auditors’ preference for and use of different communication modes. Importantly, we find evidence that the use of face-to-face communication is associated with more positive and productive client interactions<i>, </i>suggesting there are legitimate reasons for audit firms to encourage the use of face-to-face communication when possible.