This is part 1 of a 2-part piece on the ‘what-why and how’ of client experience. In this first instalment I’ll be covering the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of awesome client experience, and in part 2 I’ll be showing you ‘how’.
Now I know what some of you may be thinking.
“Customer service and client experience are the same thing, right?”
‘Client experience’ is a phrase that has been floating around for years, but now more than ever practice owners are coming to realise its meaning and importance.
You see every Tom, Dick and Harry can provide a decent level of customer service…
So, to make sure our accountancy practices stand up against competitors and our clients stay satisfied, we instead need to be proactive with how we deal with our clients.
And we can do that by creating an awesome client experience for them.
In Part 1 of this 2-part article, you’ll learn the difference between customer service and client experience, and why the latter is absolutely crucial for your accountancy practice.
What’s wrong with customer service?
The simple and honest answer to this question is ‘nothing’.
Customer service is defined as:
“The assistance or advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products”
And it’s important for every practice to develop a brilliant customer service strategy, it plays a key role in any business.
So, if you’re looking to improve your practice’s customer service strategy, then here are some useful articles to get stuck into:
- A Lesson In Why Systemised Customer Service Is Absolutely Crucial For Your Accountancy Practice
- “But What If They Steal All Of My Clients?”
- WOW your clients and deliver superior customer service by systemising the ‘little things’
But I’m here to tell you that customer service is only one piece of the puzzle.
More often than not, customer service comes into play when our clients have a question, concern or problem.
Which means if you only focus on customer service, most of the interaction between you and your clients is either transactional or as a result of a problem.
And while it’s important that you and your team can provide the answers and assistance your clients need, if you’re only focused on customer service everyone misses out.
So, what is client experience?
Client experience is defined as “How clients perceive their interactions with your company” and it refers to the broader customer journey and every aspect of the client’s interaction with you and your practice.
Where customer service is mainly reactive, client experience is the opposite.
From the moment a prospect clicks on your website, picks up the phone to speak with you, or walks through the door they will be forming an impression on you and your practice.
So, you should be proactively engaged with prospects and clients to ensure interactions at every stage of their journey have a lasting and positive impact.
And to do this, you must consider client experience and the impact on the client when making every little decision in your practice.
Here are just a few some examples of how you can:
- Designing the practice – Is it a comfortable environment for visiting clients?
- Choosing software – will clients find it easy to use? Can we train them?
- Hiring staff – will they interact well with your clients?
- Choosing pricing method – is it transparent for clients or should it be bespoke?
Why is it important for your accountancy practice?
1. You cannot compete on price
There are more and more low-cost accountants popping up online who are offering cheap services often for very low monthly fees.
Which means trying to compete for business on price is a no-go.
So, you need to offer them something more.
The something more? A great client experience.
If you create a friendly and recognisable brand, welcoming atmosphere and show you want to build lasting relationships with your clients you will be more likely to draw new business in and retain your current clients.
A great client experience this this is unique and will be extremely difficult to copy or even compete with.
Therefore, other low-cost providers simply wont be able to match it.
2. To increase human touchpoints
As accountancy practices are embracing new technology and automation, the number of human touch points between us and our clients is decreasing.
Clients used to come into our practices to hand over statements and receipts providing us with a great opportunity to touch base and catch up with them.
Which is great in that it saves us our most precious commodity, time.
However, it also means there is a greater need for more humanisation in our relationship with our clients.
So, to build and maintain strong relationships and increase client retention you need to actively seek ways to increase the human touch points where possible.
Simple ways of increasing human touch points are:
- Quarterly courtesy calls
- Gifting – birthday cards, thank you gifts
- Visit their business
- Create and send bespoke videos
- Run drop-in sessions/clinics
And if you want to discover more on how to maintain a ‘human touch’ in your accountancy practice you should read this.
3. You have more than accountants to compete with
Yes, you read that right.
When thinking about client experience, you aren’t just competing against other accountancy practice owners.
You’re competing against every other service or product your clients or prospects buy.
We can now:
- Book and plan a holiday hassle free from the comfort of our sofa,
- Order a delicious takeaway in minutes,
- Book and track a taxi on a convenient app,
- Place a product online and receive it the very next day
This new way of doing business is changing your clients expectations whether you like it or not.
Amazon are a huge company who have become renowned for delivering on high expectations from their customers.
And the company CEO Jeff Bezos put’s it like this:
“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better”
Providing an excellent client experience is key to increasing client retention, and ensuring clients feel part of something deeper and more meaningful than a simple exchange or transaction.
4. You’ll increase your profitability & growth
Providing a great client experience will ultimately lead to better growth and profitability for your accountancy practice.
Take a look at this diagram below:
If your clients are happy and satisfied with the service you’re offering and the relationship you’ve built then they:
- Are less likely to go elsewhere
- Will feel they are getting more value from you
- Are more likely to explore your extended service offering
- Will become a referral engine in themselves as they rave about their experience with you.
All of these points mean more stable income for your practice through repeat business and loyal custom.
It’s important to remember, it costs “5x more to attract new clients than to retain existing ones”* so we should be focusing on client retention and not just client acquisition.
5. Your team will thrive, as will your efficiency
Providing a great experience and service to your clients will have a profound impact on your team too.
If you and your team have built strong relationships with your clients then every interaction should be a positive experience for all involved.
And the happier your clients are, the happier your team will be too.
As part of delivering your exceptional client experience having a great team culture in your practice will reflect positively on how prospects perceive your practice.
A+ attitudes from your team members and high morale will lead to increased efficiency and job satisfaction…
… which means better staff retention, and again increased profitability. (see below diagram)
So what contributes to client experience?
The way in which a client or prospect forms an opinion of you is influenced by a number of factors, some of these being:
- How you communicate
- Your team and their attitude
- Transparency & pricing
- The technology you use
- Sales meetings
- Service delivery
Together these all add up to the critical moments—the touch points—that create your practice’s overall customer experience.
In part 2 of this article, I’ll show how you can start building and delivering an exceptional client experience that will make you stand out against competition, increase client retention and your practice profitability.
*Source of stat: Investco Eco Consultancy