Creating an Innovative Practice Starts With Improved Client Service

Client Relationships Customer-centric tax practice

The nature of what you do means you service your clients; however, there is a wide disparity in the level of service provided by tax and accounting firms. In the best-of-the best firms, their service models are truly competitive differentiators – it’s what helps them land new clients and retain the clients they have. The good news is that you, too, can reap these benefits by improving your client service model.

In recent years, the concept of “customer experience” (CX) has gained popularity. Simply speaking, it’s all the ways a client interacts with your firm for the entire length of time they are a client. These interactions go beyond what you have to do to exceed expectations; you must consciously map out what is referred to as a client journey.

Start Small to Begin Making a Difference

While you don’t have to develop a long and formal CX plan to improve service, figuring out how to focus on service isn’t as simple as using best practices from other firms. Your service model is unique to your firm, team, mission, vision and values. For it to be your plan, you have to do the work to develop it.

The good news is that you don’t have to tackle every aspect of client service all at once. It can evolve over time. Here are a few areas with low-hanging fruit you can explore to get started:

  • Welcome clients. How do you welcome new clients to your firm? Send a letter or gift? How about a call from the managing partner? Make your clients feel special from the start.
  • Say goodbye to the general communications you send. You know your clients’ names and businesses, so address them by name with information that directly relates to them, not something generic.
  • Listen to them. This means you have to first ask your clients what they want and need. Then, and only then, can you act. Maybe there is something you need to improve, do or do differently. This information will allow you to prioritize those things that will make the biggest impact to those who matter most.
  • Create emotions. A significant part of the client experience is emotional. How do you create an emotional reaction for your clients? What can you do that they will remember and talk about for years to come? Disney truly excels at creating a “magical” experience; how about adding a little magic to what you do?
  • Make a lasting impression. When a client enters your lobby, what do they see, hear, smell, feel and/or taste? Senses have a strong impact on perceptions, so consider what senses you want to trigger and how.
  • Spotlight their success. Do you publicly recognize the success of a client? Congratulate them on a milestone or an award. Find a way to share their story with your other clients. Most people like being in the limelight even though they’d never ask for it.
  • Be proactive. Most firms are good at solving problems clients bring to their attention, but how can you avoid those problems in the first place? Identify the issues you’ve addressed more than once and change your process so other clients don’t encounter the same issues.
  • Do something unexpected. Perhaps you send clients a card or gift on their anniversary with your firm or arrange for a member of firm leadership to visit their location to talk about your service. What about sending a handwritten note addressing a complaint? There are little things you can do that clients will find extraordinary.
  • Celebrate staff successes. The service you provide is delivered by every member of your firm in every encounter they have with a client, so success depends on your staff being able to deliver service in a way that supports your vision. When team members model the behavior you want to see, recognize them.

If you select interactions your clients have with your firm and customize them one at a time, you can slowly develop a model that will set your apart from your competitors.

Measure Your Success

To understand the impact of client service, you should regularly survey your clients. While there are lots of things you want to know, there is one question you have to ask: how likely are you to recommend us to a friend? Allow the client to answer on a scale of one to 10, where 10 is extremely likely and one is not very likely.

This single question will let you calculate a Net Promoter Score (NPS), a measurement for how loyal your clients are. Intuit® ProConnect™, in fact, relies on the NPS to assess its performance because it is a key predictive indicator that directly relates to future revenue. Loyal clients will stay clients and tell their friends about you. Simply subtract the percent of respondents who ranked you a one thorough six (your detractors) from those who ranked you a nine or 10 (your supporters). According to research firm Inavero, high-performing firms score between 50 to 75 percent. You should then work to improve this score year-over-year by focusing on its main driver: client service.

What do you do in you firm to demonstrate excellent service? Include a comment below to share your strategies!

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