As all accounting firm owners know, no matter how busy you get, you can’t forget the most important aspect of your business — your clients. Their needs must be understood and met. The key to understanding and meeting your clients’ needs is to create an experience that adds value to their businesses. It’s about building real relationships with your clients. To do that, we need to improve the client experience.
How well are you meeting this challenge in your practice or business?
During the last decade, while helping many professional firms grow and expand their practice, we discovered that many professional services firms like accountants are too narrowly focused on simply winning the next client or the next project.
Many are giving little consideration to how they can win many more projects from the same client — a client they already like and trust, and whose practice and personnel they have gotten to know well.
By contrast, accounting firm leaders with the greatest experience in business development focus on building lasting client relationships to provide a solid foundation from which they can gain more business and succeed in a highly competitive marketplace.
These professionals understand that building strong client relationships is an integral business development strategy to improve your practice’s bottom line and support its long-term growth.
As we all know, happy clients will keep coming back — and they may also recommend your services to others. Click here to Tweet.
Most accounting practice owners know that acquiring new clients costs more than growing business opportunities with repeat clients. But how many are able to act successfully on this understanding?
How can we improve the experience of clients of professionals to build new and better opportunities to serve these clients?
Let me offer 5 ways to support business development at your firm by improving the client experience within your practice:
1. Create a Client Experience Strategy
Most professional service firm owners include in their business development plans a strategy that helps them to take the right direction in building their practice.
But I rarely encounter professionals who include, within their business development plan, a special section dedicated to their “client experience strategy.”
Many of you may be asking, what is a “client experience strategy”?
Let me put it simply — it is the process of documenting your client’s journey so that you will understand better how to serve their needs.
We believe that you, as an accounting practice professional, need to understand and record how to bring value at every stage of the project to your clients. This is even more critical in cases where the project involves individuals in addition to yourself.
This is because the overall success of the project, and your client’s experience, depends very much on the successful implementation of each part of the project.
2. Close the Client Experience Gaps
Research done in the professional services industry reveals that many professionals lose clients — and return business from existing clients — due to poor client service.
I want you to ask yourself: What’s missing from your practice’s overall client experience? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I have an onboarding special package for every new client who joins my practice?
- Does every new client joining my practice receive a welcome call or an email from the right person in my practice (or even from myself)?
- What are the first three touch points of my new client with me or my practice?
- How do I make these interactions different from those of any other accounting practice (i.e., my competitors)?
You, as a professional services business owner, experience many interesting moments to interact with your clients and connect with them. But how well do you take advantage of these moments to nurture your relationships?
In order to succeed and close these client experience gaps, you need to:
- Understand your client’s business.
- Understand your client’s target clients.
- Understand the new and innovative business development tools that allow you to create amazing client experiences.
We suggest you identify ways to enhance your communication with your clients as an integral part of your practice’s business development strategy.
Be proactive and learn how to identify gaps in your clients’ experience to improve your own performance and that of your team.
3. Deliver More to Your Clients
You, as a professional, get hired by your clients to solve their problems.
However, providing solutions is only one piece of the puzzle. Many hard-working and knowledgeable professionals can do that.
In this “Connection Age,” however, clients expect more.
Clients want you to know them, like them, and trust them — before you even provide your services to them. Clients expect you to earn their loyalty.
To accomplish this, you need to push beyond the primary business development goals of your practice.
Think of other ways you can satisfy your clients. How can you help them reach their secondary objectives?
One simple example would be introducing your client to another valuable client of yours. In my practice, I used to do this at least once every week.
You could also invite them to join you at an interesting event, or even mention your client’s name or business in an article (after first asking their permission and ensuring that you don’t violate their privacy).
Other ideas could include sending a simple “thank you” card for being your client and for their continued support, or organizing a special event for your clients. Surprise your client with something extra. They will appreciate the genuine attention you give them.
If you are too busy, we can help. Our firm implements these ideas and more on a regular basis for many professionals and the results are astonishing!
4. Conduct an External Assessment of Your Clients
Do you know how many clients of yours are currently unsatisfied (or not fully satisfied) with your services? Do you know who they are? What did you do in the last 3 months to learn more about the things that your clients want you to improve on?
You need to learn the art of “asking” your clients the right questions, in the right order, and with the right timing in order to get the information you need to improve your practice’s services and business development.
We truly believe that if you want a real assessment of client satisfaction, you need to conduct an external audit.
We suggest you hire an outside expert to speak directly to your clients and to observe client interactions with your practice.
When it comes to business development and building the client experience, do not rely too much on opinions and intuition. You need to get actual insights by conducting a proper project to determine and assess your clients’ level of satisfaction.
5. Focus on Your Commitment to Help
You need to be able to understand the client’s business as well as be able to recognize what they are actually seeking.
Once you find it, focus on it, and demonstrate a commitment to help your clients to achieve it.
How do you demonstrate this commitment?
One of the most common ways is by using a simple question for every client in your practice. I do this every 4-6 months.
I ask my clients, “What’s your current greatest concern?” This single question forces my clients to get clear on their needs. At the same time, it allows me to reassure my clients that I can help with their needs.
You can do the same, or find the right single question that you can ask every single client of yours.
Challenge your clients to share with you regarding their goal. Commit to helping them to achieve it.
Your practice is tackling a wide range of business development issues. However, the client experience is vital to the success of your business.
Develop a client experience strategy. Identify ways to improve the relationship. And conduct an external client assessment to gain more insight.
Treat your clients as special. Focus on helping them. Ask your clients what their greatest concern is, and show your commitment to helping address that.
It’s time to upgrade the experience and to build strong client relationships as a key to sustainable practice business development.
Have you already implemented any of the above business development strategies in your accounting practice? Please share which ones, along with the results.