I was recently on a group coaching call with a number of my clients where we were discussing customer service and client satisfaction.
One of my clients, Antony, said:
“You only see your business through your eyes – you don’t know what your clients are thinking and feeling”
This is so true.
In business it’s very easy to think that you’ve done a great job, and assume that your clients are happy as a result.
But the reality is that they could be thinking something completely different.
And unless you have a system for consistently checking in with them to make sure that this is the case, then the success of your practice is riding on assumptions.
Have you ever had a client that you thought you were doing a great job for, turn around and say that they’re leaving?
Here’s the truth…
They didn’t leave because your fees were too high, or because their wife’s brother has just started a practice. They left because you wrongly assumed they were satisfied, and they weren’t.
Research from Harvard University and the Bay Street Group on American CPA firms and their clients found that:
- 80% of surveyed firms said they deliver superior customer service
- But only 8% of clients surveyed said they receive superior customer service
- And 70% of clients said the top reason they would leave their current accountant would be poor customer service
With the above in mind, it’s clear that there is a huge gap between the service you think you’re delivering, and the service clients feel they are receiving.
And the way to reduce this gap, is to start monitoring client satisfaction.
So how do you go about monitoring client satisfaction?
There are several ways you can monitor client satisfaction, ultimately it comes down to finding one that:
- Suits your practice and your clients
- Is scalable e.g. If your client base doubled tomorrow, you could still do it
- Actually uncovers the truth behind what’s going on
One of the more famous client satisfaction measurements is the Net Promotor Score.
This method involves asking a simple question usually at year-end meetings with clients:
“How likely is it that you would recommend our company/service to a friend or colleague?”
If a client scores highly, they are likely to be satisfied with your service.
And if a client scores lower, they probably aren’t as satisfied.
This method is great for asking once, maybe twice a year, but it doesn’t provide you with a consistent way of monitoring their satisfaction.
A better example is from one of my clients based in Essex.
In his practice, when a job is marked as complete in their workflow software (Glide), an email is sent out automatically to the client with a simple 5-star rating question asking them to rate their satisfaction on this particular job (notice that the automation here makes this system extremely scalable).
If clients don’t respond to the email, it is followed up with a phone call from one of the more junior staff.
If the client answers with a 4 or 5, then everything is good.
But if the client answers with a 3 or below, then it is immediately escalated to somebody in senior management to phone the client and find out exactly what is wrong.
This conversation might throw up any number of reasons:
- Jane took 3 days to return my calls and emails
- Phil wasn’t very clear when he was explaining this to me
- I thought it would have been finished much quicker
The point is, that you can learn from this feedback and make the necessary adjustments where needed. Without asking the questions though, you would never know it’s the case.
Another one of my clients based in Dorset implemented a client courtesy call system to monitor client satisfaction and identify opportunities to cross-sell additional services.
Each week his managers are given a list of clients to call up and find out how they’re getting on and if they have any queries or issues.
And whilst this isn’t particularly a system for measuring a score or variable like the 2 examples above, it does still highlight the clients that are not satisfied and allows you to rectify any issues on your side before they turn into bigger problems.
The key point to remember however you approach monitoring client satisfaction is that it is systemised and consistent.
If it’s an ad-hoc ‘when we remember’ process, it will never work.
Superior customer service is the differentiator
In the next few years, superior customer service delivered by outgoing and caring people is what will separate the thriving accountancy practice from the average joe down the road.
And a key part of any superior customer service strategy is a system for monitoring client satisfaction.
Ask questions, listen and take note.
Don’t assume you know what your clients are thinking, because assumptions can kill a business!