Client loyalty is imperative to the long-term success of your accounting practice.

You have probably thought about it; some of you may have even tried to conduct a survey before. So why the hesitation and procrastination? The topic of surveying comes up at most firmwide and association meetings that I have attended. Many firms just don't know how to conduct client surveys, don't want to take the time to do it, or they simply don't want to know the results. Then there are the firms that do want to know the results and conduct the survey, only to forget about following up to implement needed changes discovered from the survey results.

The benefits of conducting client surveys vastly outweigh the time and effort surveying takes. Surveying your firm's top clients helps resolve and prevent many issues such as client attrition, which will always be extremely expensive.

The client loyalty surveys that we conduct prove that clients want good regular communication from you and for you to give them insights into their business, among several other personalized preferences and requests. Surveying clients opens the door for improved communication with your clients. It lets them know you are listening and that you care about the experience they are having.

Client loyalty is truly a key to your firm's success and growth. Just as loyal employees attract more of the same, so do loyal clients.

In one case, I was amazed - and also concerned - that the top client interviews revealed the respondent's dedication to a partner. Notice that I said, "a partner"- meaning one. While it may prove that client service and attention seal the relationship, having a great relationship with one individual in the firm and not the firm as a whole is certainly a negative.

When we conduct these client loyalty surveys, a partner who is not the primary contact for the client will accompany us on the meeting. This allows the partner to hear for themselves what the client is saying about the other partner and the firm. This is also a great opportunity for the partner to strengthen the relationship with this client or, if need be, to introduce themselves and start building a relationship with the client. This helps to achieve firmwide loyalty, in addition to the partner loyalty that has already been established with the client.

Of course, the key to effectively utilizing these surveys is in the follow-up. Don't stir the pot if you are unwilling to address the issues that arise. After you complete the client survey, you must do the following in order for it to be successful:

Tabulate the results;

Look for common issues that exist;

Formulate a plan to address these issues;

Communicate the plan to your employees and/or clients;

Commit to implementing any needed changes; and,

Follow up after implementation to see if positive change has occurred.

When you are planning your firm's strategy for this year, make sure you build loyalty surveys into your plan. The results of the survey will aid in moving your firm in the right direction for growth and improvement.


Angie Grissom is vice president and director of consulting at Five Star3.

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