[IMGCAP(1)]Last night, my wife Colleen and I made Ina Garten’s Beef Bourguignon for dinner. It’s a real classic that did not disappoint! With this and every recipe I tackle, I have a few choices. I can do exactly what the recipe says verbatim, or I can “listen” to what the food is telling me and make adjustments and changes that may yield a better result.

Last night, had I made the recipe verbatim it would have been good—no doubt. But, because I listened to what the stew was telling me as the flavors came together, I cut out some salt, added a little more butter, and reduced the stew on the range top about 50 percent longer. The result? My good recipe became great, and arguably excellent (no offense intended Ina!).

It’s really no different with our clients. We could do as we’re asked and generally have a good relationship with our clients, or we could be more tuned in, truly listen, and make small changes that will make our good relationships truly excellent.

You’ve heard time and time again that it is the little things that make all the difference. Only one airline has ever sent me a birthday card. Only one hotel chain has ever asked if I’d prefer bottled water and a granola bar, a coke and potato chips, or a beer and pretzels waiting in my room upon check-in. And, only one store that I shop in ALWAYS treats me as if I am Prince Harry. It’s no surprise that these are the businesses that have earned my loyalty, referrals, and repeat business.

Clients expect timely, quality work from responsive professionals. So, when they also get those little extras, these are often the things that significantly boost retention rates and make us more referable.

While I’d love to offer some ideas and thoughts on what the little extras could be for your clients, I cannot. That’s because you are the one who knows your client, not me. And, the little things you can do typically come from knowledge about the client, their business, and their personal life.

A great first step would be to put your top client relationships into a simple matrix. Who do you need to get to know better, and what are you going to do to get to know them better? Once you’ve uncovered some better information about your clients, and begun to solidify or strengthen your relationships, you’ll be in good place to identify some of those little extras that could begin to make a significant difference to them.

I could fly any airline, stay at any hotel chain, and shop at any department store—and your client could use any accounting firm. Think about what little things some of your favorite businesses do that make you come back time and time again and put some of those tactics in play with your best clients. It just might make the difference between having good clients or excellent clients.

Art Kuesel, director of practice growth and marketing consulting services for Koltin Consulting Group, helps CPA firms across the country hone and maximize their growth plans, build effective marketing and sales efforts, coach partners and managers to greater success and add revenue to the top line. Koltin Consulting serves CPA, law and financial advisory firms with strategic growth, M&A services, executive recruiting and management consulting services. Art can be reached at 312-662-6010 or akuesel@koltin.com.