How does your client service offering measure up?

In January we looked at what you need to do differently in order to beat the post 31 January client service cycle. This month we look at how you can measure results. Most practitioners say ‘client service’ is our main focus but when asked what that actually means it is often a challenge to answer. Can you prove what you hold to be true?

How do you know what clients really think of you?
Every progressive practice has a few simple systems in place whereby all clients are consistently contacted throughout the year for feedback. A log is kept of when the client was contacts, what their feedback was and follow up action taken as a result. Every month practices then measure how many clients were contacted and what the ‘scores’ were.

Calling a client just to say ‘how are we doing- what can we improve on?’ is a very powerful question. Similarly, it is often enough to open a conversation with ‘on a scale of 1 to 10 how would you grade us?’ then ‘what can we do to move that score up?’ Remember, clients rarely complain about fees if they feel they are receiving excellent service.

Where feedback is positive you may want to ask if the client knows anyone else you can help and generate a referral.

The key to making this strategy work best is to ensure you always follow up and do what you say you are going to do if there is room for improvement.

Share the feedback with your team ongoing so they feel part of the process.

 

When should I contact clients and how?
Work top down starting with ‘A ’grade clients. The best time to contact them is just when you have completed a piece of work. You will be in regular contact with A and B clients already.

You should already know your clients preferred method of communication- phone, e-mail or better still in person at the final year end client meeting. Avoid the trap of calling a client when you know they aren’t available and you feel you have ‘done your client service’ call by merely leaving a message for them!

Work out how many clients you have and the resources available to make phone calls each week. From this information you can set your target for contact calls to be made. This approach means a system is likely to become embedded in the firm and won’t fall by the wayside due to not having enough time to make the calls each week and follow up. Better to just make 5 calls a week and follow up promptly than set unrealistic r=targets which are never met and will demotivate your team.

If you feel uncomfortable about contacting a client for feedback then this in itself is telling you an important message. You know there is an issue. Don’t be afraid to address it if you want to retain that client.

 

Testimonials
There are still a number of practices who don’t ask for client testimonials or keep an out of date folder in reception with testimonials that are over a year old.

Some practices frame testimonials or show them on a rolling screen to catch visitors’ attention.

Ensure you keep testimonials up to date and don’t be afraid to ask a client for one as well as permission to share it on your website, reception folder and use in your marketing and promotion material.

Testimonials are a positive tool to win new clients as well as motivate your team with positive feedback. When used effectively they raise the profile of your firm.

 

Why is this so important?
In the current economic climate practitioners are reporting how clients are ever more demanding and looking for competitive quotes as part of their annual cost review. If your perceived service levels fall short then you have a client at risk of leaving.
You need to be ahead of the curve. Ensure your client feels valued by asking them what they think of your service and what you can improve on. This will give you an opportunity to resolve any service issues. Clients love it when their advisor takes the time to contact them and ask what actually matters to them. Often, a client will be more impressed by how you dealt with negative feedback and resolved the issue than simply meeting filing deadlines for compliance work.

 

Avoid the pitfalls
‘Client service means getting accounts and tax returns filed on time’. Ask yourself is this what your team would say when asked to define what makes your firm special in terms of client service. Meeting deadlines is a given in our profession and nothing special!

Similarly, responding to queries and returning phone calls promptly is standard best practice and doesn’t constitute excellent client service in itself.

The key is to have systems where you can measure the following;

  • Number of clients to be contacted each month
  • Target service level score v actual.
  • Score summary by client and total average. Review year to date movement.
  • Have all feedback action points been followed up?
  • Share monthly results at team meeting
  • Make system changes where issues identified that impact other clients


Conclusion
Book an hour in your diary this week to review if your client service offering measures up. You will then be well placed moving forward and stand a better chance of retaining those clients you want to keep as well as retaining valuable team members. In doing so you will be in a strong position to generate referrals and additional revenue streams. Make this part of your own 2017 business plan.

 

February 2017 Copyright - Finola McManus, Practice Perfect

Helping accountancy firms to make their clients successful
www.practice-perfect.net

 

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