As today’s decision makers shift, so too are the expectations around client service. Understanding what clients want is important. While there are some trends or commonalities across generations, the fact is, people are changing. To exceed client expectations, it’s important that CPA firms pay close attention to their client experience and invest in it. Here are six tips to help you to improve your client experience.
- Measure Yourself. How well are you doing when it comes to customer service? If you aren’t already measuring your firm’s client service, you should be. Start by surveying your clients and then, survey your staff. When the results come back, look for gaps in perception. Spoiler alert: your perceptions don’t matter. The client’s perspective is the only one that matters. If their definition of responsiveness doesn’t match yours, start troubleshooting.
- Leverage Technology Better. Change is happening at a staggering rate in the Accounting profession, especially with technology. However, we still see firms hesitant to invest in new resources that will improve a client’s overall experience. A great example is a move away from traditional portals toward applications that change the tax experience for clients. Sureprep recently released Tax Caddy, a product that changes how clients engage with their firm, from data collection to communication. Another example of new technology is dynamic chat features. A website isn’t just a brochure anymore; it’s an interactive experience for your clients. Chat features allow prospects to engage with your firm in real-time.
- Be Responsive. A response doesn’t equal a solution. A response is an acknowledgment that you received a communication. Millennials expect fast response times. That means minutes, not days or even 24 hours. Teach people to acknowledge communication or put resources in place to do this. Responsiveness is one of the most important factors we hear from satisfied clients.
- Manage Expectations. Most firms do a poor job at managing expectations with their clients. When touchpoints are only at the beginning or the end of an engagement, and firms forget to regularly update clients on the status of their project, service suffers. In today’s connected environment, people are used to getting regular updates on the status of their widgets and services. When a package ships, you get updates at every step of the process. So, why can’t firms do this with some of their compliance services? (I know, the technology companies don’t have this built out yet). A more simplified approach is to send your more significant clients at least one email in the process to let them know you received their information and are working on it.
- Build Relationships with millennials in their client organizations. Transition is a priority for most businesses today, and your clients aren’t an exception. You need to be bringing your millennials into these relationships and giving them a more significant role in serving clients and developing relationships with the next decision makers.
- Clarify your ideal target client. Take a hard look at your client base. Unless you plan to rebuild your service model toward low-level 1040 work, you need to evaluate who you are built to serve best. Much of the low-level 1040 prep work will be served by companies who operate a self-service model. This isn’t most of CPA firms I know.
While it’s true that CPA firm client demographics are shifting, the fact of the matter is service expectations have changed for everyone. As other industries improve their client service with the assistance of technology, CPA firms need to join the race if they want to attract and retain clients. As you think about how you can improve your client’s experience, don’t rule out the simple things – self-awareness, manners and intentionality go a long way. Above all, clients want to know they matter to you. If you need assistance in improving your client service, give us a call; we’d love to discuss options with you.