how to get the most out of client meetings

How often do you have a client meeting where the following happens ?

  • The client is late or sometimes doesn't turn up at all
  • You are running late and leave the client waiting for a while before you are ready to start the meeting.
  • When it does start it goes on for too long
  • Much of the time is spent trawling through audit and account queries and trying to finalise accounts
  • You are apprehensive about having to talk to the client about fees and debtors and often avoid or 'forget' to !
  • You rarely generate any extra work from the meeting and see it as 'something that has to be done.'
  • There is no real format to the meeting and you end up spending a fair bit of time chatting about nothing in particular.
  • You end the meeting not really knowing if the client is happy or not.
  • Once the client has left you kick yourself for 'forgetting' to talk about things that you had planned to but didn't get round to it or feel comfortable with mentioning.
  • You then don't get around to writing up your notes from the meeting to give to staff or send anything to the client.
  • You don't follow anything up with the client after the meeting and think 'well that's that then for another year!'

Ring any bells with you? 

Here is what the most successful practices do when they hold a client meeting;

  • Client meetings to finalise accounts are booked in at the planning stage and confirmed in writing or by e-mail.
  • The team member who completed the job sits in on the accounts finalisation part of the meeting.
  • They can answer queries and hear first hand what has to be done to complete the job.
  • A date is agreed and programmed on the work planner to finalise the job and send it out.
  • The client is asked if they are happy with this timeframe.
  • All client meetings have an agenda to include start and finish times and points for discussion-especially including 'awkward 'items such as discussing fees.
  • This ensure you can never forget ! A client meeting rarely lasts more than 2 hours and more often one hour.
  • The agenda is sent in advance to the client asking them if there is anything they wish to add.
  • This raises the importance of the meeting in the client's mind and focuses attention.
  • A secretary always rings the client a day before the meeting to confirm with the client.
  • Client meetings always start on time to ensure the client feels important and valued.
  • A very simple thing that is often overlooked as being important.
  • The partner starts the meeting by saying what the time is now and what time the meeting will end.
  • Meetings are not allowed to over run.
  • Reception staff know who is coming in and when so they can we welcomed personally.
  • Car parking space (if need be) is reserved for the client.
  • The client is always offered something to drink on arrival.
  • Someone offers the client if they can take their mobile phone and take messages whilst the meeting is in progress.
  • This avoids you being interrupted and makes the client feel even more looked after and important.
  • Within 24 hours of the meeting you send a summary e-mail of what was discussed and action points arising.
  • This is copied to the staff working on that client.
  • A day after sending the meeting notes and action plan your secretary calls the client to ask if they were happy with the meeting and notes.
  • The client is asked for feedback on the service they have received from you at every meeting and is always asked 'Is there anything we could do better ?'
  • Clients are also asked 'On a scale of 1 to 10 how do you rate us ?' and 'What do we need to do to increase that score.'
  • These results are documented, actioned and shared with all staff.

These are some suggested agenda items;

  • Finalise accounts
  • Discuss tax liabilities
  • Tax planning and financial services review
  • Personal and Business goals update
  • Fees-including fixed fee for the following year.
  • Update on Menu of Services and what our practice does to help clients.
  • Windows of Opportunity-what else can we do to help you ?
  • Dates for future meetings to include regular business advice and strategy meetings.
  • Feedback and service.
  • Action points to follow up
  • Any other business

Results achieved by firms who follow this approach

  • Clients stay with your firm for longer
  • Clients feel valued
  • You appear to be proactive
  • You improve your cash flow
  • You generate extra fees and work
  • You manage your time effectively.
  • Job get finalised more efficiently and you improve your gross margin and recoverability.
  • Staff feel included and communication is improved.
  • Staff are better trained and develop more quickly within the firm and free up partner time.

Conclusion

None of the above is rocket science and very simple to implement. Many practitioners I talk to often are so busy they forget the obvious basics. Such practitioners report significant improved results, on all levels, by having a refresher on this subject and implementing a new systematic approach. I hope you too achieve the same.

Please do e-mail me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it if you would like me to answer any questions on this article. Finola McManus - Practice Perfect October 2011

 

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