As the year draws to a close, you’re most likely tying up loose ends before the holidays, and in doing so, reflecting on 2017. What were your firm’s biggest wins? What were your firm’s greatest learning opportunities?
No doubt you’re also probably thinking ahead to 2018 and what your main goals will be for the year. One often overlooked area is client experience – as Gary Turner, MD of Xero, says, “The next big thing isn’t artificial intelligence. It’s people.” Being approachable, personable and human is the secret weapon of a small firm.
YOUR CLIENTS ARE YOUR GREATEST RESOURCE
According to statistics from the Sleeter Group, the average accounting firm sees a 20% client churn over a year. The top three reasons for that? No proactive advice (only reactive service), poor responsiveness and a referral to a new accountant from a trusted source.
As a counterbalance to that, Intuit suggests that 80% of your new clients should come from referrals. So how do you stop losing clients and start attracting them? Client. Experience. Happy, valued clients are the key to referrals, and therefore the key to growing your business.
GET EVERYONE ON BOARD
Firstly, it is essential to define what it is that you want your client experience to be, and that exercise must be carried out as a team. As Noel Tiufino of My Accounts comments, “Client experience is 100% a top-down exercise. If every team member isn’t on board, you can’t be consistent, which is a key element of a great client experience.”
The trick that a small firm has up its sleeve is its size: as a smaller group of people, it is easier to work as a tighter unit. It is easier to give feedback, recognise achievements and acknowledge room for improvement. So this first step should not be too difficult.
PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH
The tricky part can be implementing your client experience strategy. However, when in doubt, simply remember the words of Clayton Oates: “The golden rule of client experience is putting yourself in your customer’s place.”
The more time you spend developing relationships with clients, the more you can understand their goals and motivations and thus provide a better service. In a small firm, you truly have the opportunity to make your client feel valued, rather than just another paying customer.
It is important to set in place Service Level Agreements (SLAs) between your firm and your clients, to ensure that both parties are aware of each others’ expectations. An SLA allows you and your client to ‘lay down the law’ with each other, and establishes a level of trust and respect between you.
GET TECHY WITH IT
As a small firm, another key step is using your app stack to amplify your client experience. On a basic level, you can use automation tools to save time, and then invest that time in improving your client relationships instead.
To take it a step further, you can personally select and trial apps that suit the needs of your clients’ business before recommending one to them. For example if you have an expense-heavy client, Receipt Bank would be perfect, or if you have clients with precarious cash flow, then Float could help them with forecasting.
There are, of course, the little things that you can do as well. Make sure emails are answered within three days. Book in a phone call with your client every week, fortnight or month – maybe even take them for coffee. The price of one coffee per month for a ten client referrals per year seems like a no-brainer.
Small firms of the world, 2018 is the year to nail your client experience!
Bring your team together to brainstorm, find ways to implement your strategy, and don’t forget the little things. For though you be but little, you are fierce.
SPEND YOUR TIME WHERE IT COUNTS
If as you read this article, you thought to yourself, ‘How would I possibly have time to do all this?’ then let us help you out. Receipt Bank can cut your bookkeeping time in half – yes, half – so instead of typing numbers into a spreadsheet for hours, you spend that time adding meaningful value for your clients.
Book in a call with a member of our team today, and let us give you your time back.