Your clients are more likely to stay with you if they feel they are getting great value for the fees they pay you. The challenge comes when you and your client have different views as to what ‘value’ means in this context.
Accountants often assume that great value means their fees are competitive and that they aim to provide great client service. That’s when another challenge arises as it’s quite feasible that different clients have different preferences when it comes to THEM defining what constitutes great service from their accountant.
Here are seven easy ways in which you could be providing more value to your clients. You probably feel that you already do most of them, to some degree or another. I’d encourage you to consider the list more objectively. And to be honest as to whether you are doing your best across all seven.
1) Be honest and transparent
This starts from when they first become clients. Can you help ensure they know what they can expect from you? Do they understand what steps are involved in them becoming a client and you taking over their affairs and setting them up on your systems? What can you share so that they understand and do not expect things to happen sooner than is realistic?
This also requires you to be upfront, open and communicative with clients at all times. And, crucially, if things do not go according to plan, to update clients promptly. Do not leave them feeling stranded with no explanations or updates.
If you are honest and transparent, your clients will be more likely to stay and to recommend you to others.
2) Ensure clients feel listened to
Listening is essential to delivering great client service. But it works best when clients feel you have listened to them. Help them appreciate this by reflecting back to them what you have heard them say about their issues, challenges, problems and needs. Make clear that the service you deliver will match and solve these issues for them.
You may not always be able to deliver what they want, but if you keep them happy by coming up with a solution, there’s a good chance that they’ll stay with you.
When clients feel listened to, they typically sense this is a sign that you respect them and are focused on helping them. They also feel appreciated when their accountant listens to their needs because it shows that you care about what they have to say.
3) Show your clients that their satisfaction matters
The best way of doing this is by following up and asking for feedback after you have completed a project or the annual compliance routines. This allows you to strengthen your relationship, fix any issues, find opportunities for improvement, and provide even more value in the future.
Excellent client service is all about listening and paying attention to what is being said and then taking action accordingly.
4) Fix problems quickly
If there’s a problem, fix it as soon as possible! If a client complains, take ownership of the issue, apologise for the inconvenience, and tell them how you’re going to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
Even if it wasn’t your fault, the sooner you deliver value by getting it fixed, the happier everyone will be.
5) Offer options
When it comes to client service, many clients appreciate being given a choice so that they feel in control. Where appropriate it is also important to spell out the implications of each of the options you are presenting to them.
The mistake many accountants make is to focus on those options without helping clients to decide between them. It’s one thing to offer choices of service levels and quite another to choose between different ways to approach or respond to HMRC or to a potential purchaser of the business.
6) Be responsive
Client service is not just about fixing problems or providing help when things go wrong. It’s also about being responsive in general, so your clients feel confident that their business matters to you.
For example, if a client emails you with feedback or an idea for improvement, get back to them quickly to thank them for their suggestion. Let them know that you have shared it with the team or how it was implemented (if that’s the case). This makes clients feel valued and heard!
7) Deliver a personalised service
Personalised client service refers not only to speed and accuracy but also to communication that is personalised according to the client’s preferences. For example, do they all appreciate lengthy emails/letters or do some prefer phone calls? zoom calls? face to face meetings?
This also means getting to know their aims, desires, hopes, dreams, needs, likes and dislikes. The more they feel that you are keen to help them achieve their goals the more valuable they will consider your service to be.
Clients appreciate it when communication is explicitly tailored to them. They will often feel they are getting a personalised service when they can see that you have heard or read and understood their request instead of just mass-producing a generic response without reading it at all.
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