Service: it’s something we all have to deliver and one of the things that many CPA firms think they provide better than their competitors. As a purchaser of CPA firm services, I can tell you that my experience has been very different from one firm to the next, each with their own pros and cons.
Today’s clients are conditioned to expect mediocre service. They are either used to hearing “no” or not hearing from their providers at all. I am convinced that service experience drives a lot of the switching we see among clients. So how can a firm improve client service in order to reset expectations?
Best-in-class (not mediocre, not good, not even great) service starts with a commitment from firm leaders to make client service a priority. To make a change in how your firm delivers client service, begin by reading books on client service and study how best-in-class organizations deliver customer service. Companies like the Ritz Carlton, Southwest Airlines and Mercedes Benz are all known for their exceptional service. Which parts of their service mantras can you take and apply to your CPA firm?
In addition to making client service a leadership priority, you should also measure against it. Tying client service to performance expectation and compensation is the clearest way to send the message that this is a priority for the firm.
Visualize Your Experience
It’s not enough to give it lip service. Real changes happen when everyone works together. Before change can happen, two things need to occur. First, employee and partner perceptions of client service need to be aligned. It’s difficult to get people rowing in the same direction if everyone has a different destination in mind. Second, you need to understand your client’s current experience. I’m not talking about the handful of top clients who already get the very best service; I’m talking about everyone.
If you want your employees to become client service evangelists who do more than just go through the motions but truly own their role, you have to communicate more than just what you want done or how you want it done. Your employees need to understand why they are making client service a priority.
The best efforts for true change can be squashed quickly if your people on the front lines (your staff and managers) aren’t empowered to deliver best-in-class service. Once you have visualized and articulated the expectations for client service, find out what is standing in the way of delivering this service. Ask your employees to tell you what is holding them back from delivering. Then do whatever you can to remove those barriers and make it as easy as possible for them to deliver best-in-class service.
Share & Train
Improving client service doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t happen by reading a memo or a book. Start by giving each employee and partner the same experience you want your clients to receive. Perspective is a very powerful thing and can often help you develop some of the best opportunities to deliver great service.
You’ll also want to provide continuous training opportunities for your people. The best way to do this is to share real examples of employees delivering best-in-class customer service. Consider developing an internal award system to highlight client service wins or encourage momentum by creating videos of real life stories.