This is part 2 of a 2-part piece on the what why and how of client experience. In part-1, I discussed the difference between customer service and client experience, and why it’s crucial for your practice. To read part-1 click here.
So, if you’ve read part-1 of this article you should know why delivering an awesome client experience is vital for your accountancy practice.
And now that you’re an expert on the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of client experience, it’s time to talk about the ‘how’.
Delivering a great client experience will make you stand out from competition, increase your client retention, create a loyal and happy team and improve your practice profitability.
So why are so many practice owners failing to take action?
The probable answer is that they don’t know what it is and/or see the importance of it.
Loss of clients and customer dissatisfaction is far too-often blamed on pricing and competitors.
But the truth is, clients often leave because they simply weren’t happy with the experience they were receiving.
So, with all this in mind, here’s 8 ways to help deliver a great client experience in your accountancy practice….
1. Map out the customer journey
In order to do deliver an exceptional client experience you need to focus on improving client interactions during every single phase of the client journey.
The client journey starts well before they agree to work with you, and it ends once you’ve got them the result they were looking for and they are now an advocate of you and your business.
In his book ‘Never Lose A Customer Again’ Joey Coleman describes the 8 phases of the customer journey as follows:
Stage 1: Assess – They’re deciding whether to work with you
Stage 2: Admit – They admit they need your help – a sale is made
Stage 3: Affirm – Sale is done – you need make them feel they have made the right decision
Stage 4: Activate – When your relationship materialises, and you begin to deliver on promises
Stage 5: Acclimate – When the client learns and gets comfortable with the way you do things
Stage 6: Accomplish – When the client achieves the result, they wanted from working with you
Stage 7: Adopt – Client takes ownership of the relationship and proudly supports you
Stage 8: Advocate – Client becomes raving fan, promoter and referral engine
In order to truly offer the best experience for your clients it’s important to recognise and be aware of what stage your clients are currently in.
So to do this you need to map out the customer journey.
Map out and plot every interaction a client or potential client will have with you and your practice.
You can then form a plan of how you are going to communicate and deliver a great experience at each stage.
This way you can provide them with the right level of support, address any concerns and go above and beyond their expectations at every opportunity.
2. Have an awesome onboarding process
When a client initially agrees to work with you, there’s always a lot of excitement.
But there’s also a healthy dose of apprehension and nerves.
So, it’s important, when onboarding your clients that you reassure them they’ve made an awesome decision working with you and the journey ahead looks bright!
It’s the first opportunity to wow your new clients and maximise the returns on your new relationship.
Through your onboarding process you should:
- Introduce yourself and your team,
- Set and outline expectations for both of you,
- Explain your working methods and processes,
- Find out more about them, so you can personalise their experience,
- Answer queries or concerns,
These early stages are crucial in building a trusting relationship so start as you mean to go on.
For the complete what, why and how of onboarding new clients check out my Onboarding 101 here.
3. Regularly check-in
Long periods without contact can be damaging for the relationship between you and your clients.
So it’s important that you make them feel appreciated and touch base regularly.
If your only interaction is purely transactional and business related then you’re at risk of making them feel like another cog in the machine and less special.
Here are some ways you can regularly touch base and keep your relationship strong:
- Monthly or quarterly courtesy calls
- Lunch/coffee meetings
- Weekly newsletter’s or emails
By staying in contact you are also letting your client know that you’re available whenever they need you and it will go a long way towards making them feel less of a customer and part of bigger experience and community.
4. Vary your communication methods
In this day and age there are so many methods to communicate with one another.
Yet often we stick to the same methods of emailing or telephoning to speak with our clients.
Now that’s not to say that emailing and calling clients isn’t a good way to communicate, because it is.
But if there’s an opportunity to mix things up and offer something different try it!
For example, If your client emails in with a query or question, why not record a quick video explaining the answer or process to send back to them.
Why not send a gift through the post to congratulate them or ‘just because’.
Taking extra little steps when communicating with them help provide an added personal touch will set you apart from the competition.
5. Leverage technology
Now technology has had a huge impact on the profession.
And although it has sped up numerous processes to make things systemised and easier, it has also cut out a lot of the human-touch in business relationships.
So it’s important that your use of technology enhances the client experience and doesn’t hinder it.
When using technology make sure you familiarise your clients to it, as too many bells and whistles and a lack of understanding can easily make them uncertain.
Offering training and regular software support is a good way to ensure clients are happy and comfortable with how things work.
And if you provide amazing software demonstrations and training you can wow clients and strengthen your relationships further.
Software such as loom or screencast-o-matic mean you can use video and screen casting to respond to client questions instead of just typing away over email.
This provides more of a personal touch to your responses and you can add far greater value by demonstrating your advice and suggestions.
Video conferencing technology like Zoom and Skype also allow you to engage on a far deeper level with clients and mean you can hold face-to-face meetings more often and from the comfort of your office.
Most importantly, technology and systems should be saving you time.
Time that can be spent interacting with your clients on a more personal level and working towards improving your business and their experience.
6. Keep providing value
The level of value you provide to your clients is so important to their satisfaction and client experience.
So at every opportunity you should be looking at ways to do and provide more.
On top of the regular compliance work you can look to provide more business advisory services and other additional services.
If you’ve been successful in building a strong relationship with your clients, you’ll have a better understanding of your client’s pain points and needs.
So if you can identify areas in which you can help your clients further, you can offer additional services, provide greater value and charge more for the pleasure!
7. Consistency across the team
It’s a phrase I’m sure you’ve heard countless times…
“It takes only 1 bad apple to spoil the cart”
And it’s true.
You could spend months building a great relationship with a client only for another team member to have one interaction with them and put them off working with you.
So it’s crucial that all your team are singing from the same hymn sheet and are working together to make your clients feel part of an awesome community.
A happy team, will undoubtedly be more driven to be productive, and provide better service to your clients so you need to work towards building a great A+ team with an awesome atmosphere.
8. Monitor Client Satisfaction
If you don’t ask you may never know… and we aren’t mind readers.
So, it’s vital that you regularly touch base and keep a close eye on client satisfaction.
Many practice owners don’t realise their mistakes or client concerns before it’s too late.. and by this point clients are already set on going elsewhere.
To avoid this, monitoring client satisfaction is key.
Some of the ways you can do this is by:
- Measuring Net Promotor Score on a bi-annual/annual basis
- Running regular drop-ins/feedback sessions
- Use workflow software (Senta is a good example) to ask clients to rate jobs after completion
Don’t assume you know what your clients are thinking, keep your relationship strong and regularly ask questions and listen.
Expectations are higher than ever before
And to keep up with your competitors you need to meet these expectations and go above and beyond.
For every decision you make for your accountancy practice there should be careful consideration of how it will affect your clients.
The power of marginal gains suggests that if you improve every tiny aspect of client interaction by 1% the impact on the whole can be huge.
So, ask questions, listen in, take note and see how creating an exceptional client experience will radically improve your client retention, your profitability and happiness.