Client service is something every firm claims to do well, but not something every person can execute well on. Sadly, it’s this disconnect that often makes or breaks a client’s experience with your firm. So, what do your clients really want when it comes to client service? The answer may surprise you. Here are the foundations of service that everyone in your firm should learn to master to attract and retain clients.
- Responsiveness: Returning phone calls and emails in a timely fashion makes a huge impact in client service. My husband Dave and I recently hired a few contractors to work on various projects in our home. In every situation, it felt like pulling teeth to get a phone call returned. While most clients don’t expect an immediate response, you should be acknowledging receipt of a phone call within the same business day. If you can’t get back to the caller right away, send an email to let him/her know when you will.
- Manage Expectations: Simply doing what you say you are going to do creates more trust and value than any other effort. Delivering on time and on budget with your services is critical. To do this, you must manage expectations, always under-promise and over-deliver, and meet your client’s deadlines and communicate effectively about them as often as possible. When you quote a client’s timeline, build time in for hiccups, delays or review. A client will never argue if they receive something early from you.
- Treat Clients with Respect: While I don’t believe they intend to be disrespectful, when accountants perform an audit, or even as they go through everyday work, the blinders of efficiency can get in the way of common courtesy. Remember that your clients hired you to do something they can’t. Take the time to educate your clients and never deliver information in a way that is condescending. When you perform audits, ask questions in a way that doesn’t assume the worst.
The above concepts may seem simple or obvious, but we believe they are often either overlooked or forgotten. When we interview clients on behalf of our firms for branding or client service reasons, these three items come up over and over again. Good service is what clients most often define as the reason they stay with their firm and the differentiator of a great firm.