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Should you secret shop your own firm?

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By Art Kuesel
February 3, 2014

Recently I encountered a problem in the kitchen that doesn’t happen to me very often. I lacked an ingredient needed to make a recipe. For those of you who have been to my house, you know why this doesn’t happen too often. Every nook and cranny of my fridge, pantries and cabinets is stuffed with everything from the basics to the exotic. I had been salivating over this recipe for Korean spiced glazed pork ribs for days so I began to think about my options for procuring gochujang, which is Korean hot pepper paste.

Last summer I trekked all over the city to find shishito peppers—and came back empty-handed on more than one occasion. Grrr. This in the back of my mind, I wanted to avoid that experience. Even a trip to my trusty Korean grocery seemed risky given my limited knowledge of this product and the fact that nobody there speaks English.

A-ha! Amazon! Within minutes I had a small tub of the top brand of gochujang in my shopping cart and within two days would be able to make my recipe! (P.S. I made the ribs this weekend and they were AMAZING.)

This whole experience got me thinking about how well Amazon instantly solved my problem. Once I thought to consider them as a provider, within minutes I had a solution. So, when a client has a problem, need or want, how well do you solve it? Is the client left feeling as if they are trekking all over the city to find a rare vegetable or is the answer quick to find and delivered flawlessly?

As a client of many accounting firms over the years, I’ve found the answer is usually somewhere in the middle. There are a couple of ways you could consider evaluating your client experience. You could survey your clients. However, surveys usually capture responses from people who are thrilled and people who are very dissatisfied. You could interview top clients. But this only helps you evaluate the experience you provide to your best clients.

So, have you thought about secret shopping your firm? That’s right, hire someone to pretend they are a prospective client of your firm and have them report back to you on their overall experience. This is not an uncommon practice in many industries and it can give you invaluable data on key metrics of your client experience, ability to solve problems, and execution. This data can be used to understand strengths, weaknesses, and build strategies that facilitate improvement.

I realize you may have some areas of existing concern, such as response or team collaboration, so start your list of evaluation items there. Then, build out your list to include more items like:

1)      Response time from first inquiry

2)      Service team collaboration (does it seem like the right hand knows what the left hand is doing?)

3)      Ease of making appointments

4)      Understands my expectations

5)      Problem-solving skills

6)      Professionalism

7)      Keeps promises

8)      Meets deadlines

9)      Ease of communication

10)   Value for fees

11)   …and many more!

We are supposed to be problem solvers – it would be great to solve problems in Amazon-like fashion. So, ask yourself when a client or prospective client has a problem, need, or want—how well do you solve it?

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