What makes your practice different
from your competitors?

It’s that time of year when many practitioners are so busy with client deadlines and tax returns they don’t have time to think about much else. Many clients also see it as the season to explore whether they would receive better service from another firm. It is time to take a few minutes to think about why clients choose to retain your services and ensure those clients are with you next year.

Practitioners talk about client service and think it means meeting deadlines. Everyone believes they deliver great client service and yet struggle to explain what that means in reality. Meeting deadlines, delivering a technically correct product and giving people as much notice as possible about their tax liability is a given in the accountancy profession. Why would a client expect anything less!

These are the key things that matter to clients and set you apart from the competition:

 

Your team
Clients will have more contact with the people who work for you during the year- by phone, and visiting the office. Do clients receive a warm welcome and are made to feel at home? When clients are waiting in reception can they see and hear a positive upbeat atmosphere from the team. Is it a tidy environment or is there a chaotic pile of books, files and papers all around and inspiring a culture of panic and mayhem! We often overlook the basics which make such a big impression on clients. Happy team means happy clients.

 

What your clients are really buying from you
It is a given that all accountants should deliver a technically correct piece of work on time for a fair fee. When clients complain about fees they are really complaining about the service they receive. Clients are buying into the relationship they have with you and the firm. They need to feel cared for and important as if they are your only client.

To achieve this you must first check you are acting for the type of clients you actually want in your business. Don’t let poor quality clients who don’t fit your ideal client profile steal your time from ‘A’ grade clients.

How do you measure your commitment to clients? Make sure you have systems in place to track how often you call or contact them just to check in. Regularly ask how they rate your service on a scale of 1-10 and ask what you can do to move that grade up a level. Clients loved to be called for no other reason than for their advisor to check in and ask how things are going.

Are you proactive in booking meetings in advance, sending an agenda and following up each meeting with minutes and action plan? This looks professional and makes the client feel cared for with a highly personalised level of service. Many partners have general discussions with clients and action points aren’t shared with the team or followed up fully. Agendas and minutes gives the client tangible proof of what you are doing and why you are valuable to them. It will also increase internal production efficiency and improved time management.

 

Technical updates and client contact
Practitioners are very good at sending budget updates, tax rate cards and technical bulletins throughout the year and see this as ‘great client contact and service.’ In reality clients know these are generic and will usually bin them or at best put them aside never to be read in any detail.

You need to highlight specific points that are relevant to clients and either call them specifically or, as a minimum, add a personal comment to an e-mail or mailshot which is specific to them. This takes minimal time but creates a personalised service and perception that you are thinking of your client.

 

It’s the small things….
Remembering birthdays and other significant dates is often perceived as being too ‘fluffy’ by many practitioners. However, clients love this stuff! It sets you apart from your competitors as it’s not what they expect most accountants to do. Your database can readily have such key information and it is easy to put a system in place to send out an e-mail birthday cards or similar.

The more proactive and successful firms give their managers a budget to spend on A grade clients at their discretion on things like flowers, wine, chocolate to mark a significant birthday, wedding, anniversary or similar. Your managers will feel empowered and involved and your client will feel even more cared for. Small investment for a big impact, retaining a client and not involving partner time.

 

Finally…
Client surveys report that it is the softer things that make as great an impact as the technical services. The perception is that if there is that attention to detail then the technical services will be delivered equally to a high standard.

Can you tell in a moment when was the last time a client had contact with your firm, what they think of you and what you are working on to improve how you deliver your services to each client. You should be able to do this.

The majority of firms now have drinks menus in reception, staff who greet clients by name and know who is visiting the office every day, birthday cards sent automatically, staff rewards and incentives to keep them positive and pass that culture on when in contact with
clients. It’s the simple things that matter.

You don’t want to be that firm who has a reception and office area looking like a bombsite, staff walking around head down and sighing, phones ringing for too long, no one talks to the client waiting to be seen and isn’t offered a drink or a friendly word! Looking manically busy and stressed doesn’t inspire confidence!

Leave your desk for a moment and go and walk through your front door as if you were a
client……. how do you feel?

 

November 2017 Copyright - Finola McManus, Practice Perfect

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

 

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