Take the Fear Out of Client Transitions with These Tips

While client relationships shouldn’t be transitioned too often, occasionally it makes sense to realign clients with key people in an organization. Practical client transitions are often triggered by retiring partners, a re-alignment to specialty niche teams, and the need to free up partners to do more business development. A shadow might hover around the topic of client transition, but the process doesn’t have to incite feelings of dread. Below are 4 tips that will make client transition better for everyone inside (and outside) your firm.

Invest Early in Team Collaboration

Building a culture that normalizes client transition begins with collaboratively serving clients. When a firm lives by a policy that encourages clients to regularly interact with multiple points of contact, the transition process will naturally be positioned for success.

The easiest place to apply this concept is by establishing cross coverage between managers and senior staff. Ensure that both teams interact with your clients and are involved in engagement and non-engagement meetings. Additionally, have both managers and senior staff send information or make phone calls to the client. By introducing multiple touchpoints early on, your client will become comfortable interacting with several people from your firm.

Develop a Client Account Plan (CAP)™

As you begin the process of transitioning a client, have an account plan in place. Ensure account plans are succinct and actionable – don’t be overly verbose.  This isn’t about producing a report, it’s a roadmap to serve your client and facilitate the transition. A CAP™ should include:

  • Information about the client’s current needs
  • The present position of the client (at-risk, loyal referrer, etc.)
  • Your vision for the account
  • Relevant history
  • The team serving the client, including key engagement partner and people transitioning out of the relationship
  • Known client preferences
  • The client’s outside advisors
  • Key action items and due dates

Involve the Client in the Transition Whenever Possible

Sometimes client transitions are unexpected. Most circumstances, however, allow for time and planning. In these cases, it’s important to involve the client as much as possible in the transition process. Many CPA firms are afraid to include their clients, especially when it involves partner retirement. But avoiding client involvement is one of the worst things you can do for your relationships.  Sitting down with your client to create an account plan is a great way for you to be transparent and ensure your client has a voice in the transition process. Ask your clients what they want and allow them to provide input on the proposed process.

Set Your Receiver Up for Success

You wouldn’t pitch the ball to your receiver when they didn’t see it coming. Unplanned plays only result in fumbles. Instead, take the time to prepare your receiver by meeting with him/her to talk about their role in the engagement. Hold “state of the union” meetings to share relevant history so the client doesn’t feel like they are responsible for transferring knowledge. Create verbal cues or codes so you can signal to your team when you need help or guidance in front of the client. Lastly, and most importantly, step back and allow your team to develop the relationship. Your receivers must be given room to run. As long as they aren’t jeopardizing the relationship, give them the permission to manage the relationship and workload.

Want to learn more about client transition? Check out our session at Engage, AAM1704, on June 13th.

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