Client experience is something that many accounting firms and marketing professionals are talking about, but very few can explain. In a 2010 Huffington Post article, CEO and founder of Zappos, Tony Hsieh wrote about how the new and (somewhat) improved digital landscape has challenged customer service to be less rote and more proactive. Individual touchpoints are no longer a metric to be leaned on since anticipating or monitoring every employee’s interaction is (obviously) pure magic. And what really matters for every brand to find success in this arena, not only with consumers, but with employees, is the free-will adoption of a client-focused culture. We recently spoke with Leisa Gill, Director of Client Experience at LBMC in Nashville, TN about how she has taken the concept of Client Experience to a whole new level at her firm.
Before Client Experience
Building a memorable client experience for LBMC is something that Leisa sort of stumbled into. Two and half years ago, as the Marketing Director for the firm, Leisa helped launch a complete rebranding. As part of this project, the firm was evaluating how it was going to ensure it was fulfilling its brand promise. (Something every firm should question). LBMC realized they needed to establish a vision for how they would live out their brand and keep their clients engaged and excited about their services. After much conversation, they ultimately decided they needed someone to lead it that knew the firm, its people and their services. That someone was Leisa.
Leisa approached this season of change with a healthy dose of curiosity and the support of a newly promoted managing partner. In the months that followed, she amassed a pile of research. By talking to people both inside and outside the accounting profession, Leisa got an intersectional understanding on how client service was evolving. All of Leisa’s research kept coming back to: “It’s about a client’s voice. It’s all about making sure the firm gets it right, and when we don’t, how we recover from it.”
After months of preparation, Leisa presented her research to the executive board and to all eight branches of LBMC on her role and the client experience at LBMC and how they were going to approach it. The message struck a chord with everyone, and the firm responded with unanimous buy-in. The next step was written on the wall; a new initiative would require a champion; Leisa was promoted to Director of Client Service.
Implementing Client Experience
The first step toward success was figuring out what their teams didn’t know about their clients. “By conducting live surveys and having conversations with some of our top clients about service, delivery, interactions, value and innovation we identified the top 3 things we were doing well and wanted to be known for. We also uncovered three areas where we needed to focus on improvement, said Leisa.”
The survey process was pretty cut and dry, it was the live meetings with our top 50 clients that kicked our progress to a whole new level. To prepare for these meetings, the client partner, audit, technology and human resource teams carefully looked at each client’s strengths, challenges and vulnerabilities and brainstormed how they could live out LBMC’s brand to make their client’s business better. The team took their account plans to their clients and shared LBMC’s goals for how they planned to add value. The feedback from these meetings was nothing short of amazing. Clients were excited to be a part of LBMC, loyalty skyrocketed, relationships deepened and LBMC now had a formalized process for how they would address their client’s needs.
Running with Client Experience
Studies have shown that 68% of customers ultimately leave a company because of perceived indifference. Rolling out an upgraded focus on Client Experience to LBMC employees meant Leisa would need to get everyone on the same page. “Client experience is not just about the client – it’s about every step along the way.” For Leisa, going beyond the attitude of indifference means getting all clients to the point of not being able to imagine their journey without LBMC.
To ensure that their client’s needs and expectations are being met, LBMC assigns customized workflows to their account teams in Microsoft Dynamics. In this system, teams can log action items, timelines, processes and reporting dates. The workflows extend to Outlook and appears on tasks list. Team members get reminders 30 days out, 2 weeks out, 1 week out, etc., and for every day that passes the deadline, team members get pinged both in their phone and in Outlook. This process ensures major accountability. “Everyone has the best intentions – but sometimes life gets in the way. We’ve built the workflow to help our team reinforce accountability.”
In the accounting profession, every client that walks through your door is on a journey. Leisa knew the first thing a person should notice when they walked through the doors of LBMC was their client-centric culture. “Your brand comes down to how your clients, community and referral sources feel about you and why they trust you. The emotional connection that transforms prospects into clients happens when the person you’re meeting with can identify your mission and passion, and trusts you with their journey.”
If you’re ready to build Client Experience at your firm, take a few notes from Leisa. “People have become worn out on the word ‘proactive’ – simply being compliant is not being proactive. THIS is how you can become proactive.”
- Do the research – learn your message!
- Become a champion for Client Experience and gain buy-in.
- Get to know your clients. Use surveys and don’t be afraid to ask what you can be doing better.
- Implement follow-up on commitment items using your firm’s technology.
- Take one step at a time. Though you may choose to start this process with a small group of clients, remember the big-picture goal of making every client’s journey better!
If you need help getting started with Client Experience, we would love to talk with you! Contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.