[IMGCAP(1)]During my preparation for a recent client engagement, I was reviewing client satisfaction statistics from our industry, collected from a variety of surveys taken over the past several years. I think it is safe to make a blanket statement that we rate ourselves higher than our clients do. Whether it pertains to not understanding why clients select us in the first place, what we do that aggravates them the most, and why clients leave, we don’t have the best grasp on client satisfaction. It is possible that our heightened sense of performance is a result of relatively low client turnover (because it is very hard to unravel an accounting firm relationship), but I believe that it creates a false sense of security.
Because it is so much easier to keep your current clients happy than it is to find new ones, your first assignment of the school year pertains to your current clients.
Your assignment has three components:
1) Engage in a proactive meeting with one client once per month until year end. (Clients regularly state that they wish their CPA was more proactive with ideas that can help their business.)
Sit down with four top clients by 12/31. Ask them about their business goals for the coming year, what their key challenges are, and what most concerns them. Use this information to build an action plan to assist them in achieving their goals—and bring proactive and valuable information to them on a monthly basis that helps them to achieve these goals.
2) Develop/build a personal relationship with one client per month by year end. (A strong personal relationship boosts communication and loyalty, as well as insulates you against mistakes in client service.)
Some of the strongest, most productive (and valuable) client relationships become that way as a personal relationship builds over time. A great relationship boosts your position to serve as a trusted advisor and bring great ideas to your client. It also does wonders for the referral engine.
Finally, it helps to solidify long-term loyalty because few like to “quit” on their friends.
3) Ask for a referral from one client per month until year end. (Of clients who said they would refer, most didn’t simply because they weren’t directly asked.)
Why we don’t do a better job of this is beyond me. Your highly satisfied clients want to refer you! They want others to experience the same great service, not to mention they want to help you out. Create the opportunity to ask for a referral after the successful delivery of a project or engagement that was of great value to your client—and remember to be specific about the type of referral you seek.
As you can see, these “assignments” aren’t really that bad (I am a firm, but fair educator). They deal with people you already know, could easily know better, and are proven to strengthen your client retention. So, as America’s children (or perhaps your kids) come home from school this week with their first assignments of the year, don’t let them give you any grief about not wanting to do their homework. For you, too, have an assignment. Best of luck and contact me anytime you need help with it.
As the director of practice growth and marketing consulting services at Koltin Consulting Group, Art Kuesel helps firms grow and add millions of dollars of revenue to their top lines. Reach Art at 312-662-6010 or firstname.lastname@example.org.