The increase in automation for compliance services means less face-to-face contact with clients, resulting in a decrease of client loyalty. We talk to John Morrell from the Referral Guru and Edward Hayes from Connect Outsourcing about how today’s accounting firms can maintain those important relationships with their clients.
Are you keeping in touch with your clients and offering more than compliance services?
Most clients change accountants because they feel their current accountant doesn’t care about their business. WHY?
Most of the time it’s not because of price, quality, or service. Usually it’s because their accountant hasn’t stayed in touch (except to remind them their compliance file needs to be submitted).
With the increase in automation for compliance services there is less need for any face-to-face contact with clients. This has resulted in a decline in client loyalty to any particular firm. Millennial clients in particular are always looking for some form of added value and are used to shopping around.
But a lot of firms still take their client relationships for granted.
According to Harvest Business School, increasing customer retention rates by 5% can increase profits by 25%. It’s 20 times easier to get new business from existing clients than to bring in new clients.
John Morrell from the Referral Guru coaches many business including accounting firms on how to attract and retain clients. “A lot of practices I work with don’t even run an annual review, so they don’t have any contact with clients,” he says. “People tend to remember the last interaction you had with them. If your last interaction was a touchpoint where you offered them value rather than a notification on compliance, then you have a chance to build your relationship.”
Relationship Audits & Management research says around one third of clients of professional services feel valued, one third are unsure, and one third feel they are not personally valued at all.
“One of the things that surprises me about the accountancy industry is that it’s usually all about numbers,” says Morrell. “To ensure continuity of business, it needs to be about relationships.”
Morrell says the banks figured this out years ago and the accounting industry is far behind. “One objection I hear from accountants is that they are not in sales and not in client management,” he says. “It’s a huge challenge to change their paradigm into management processes so they can make the essential changes I’m talking about.”
Part of the problem is that most accounting firms struggle to find more time to spend with their clients in their already busy schedules.
How can firms free up space to focus on these essential value-add, client-facing services?
How outsourcing is a key part of your business transformation model…
Connect Outsourcing consultant Edward Hayes says firms that want to offer more to their clients need to move to a leaner production model for their business. “Outsourcing your compliance tasks plays an essential part in reducing the cost and time of production,” he says. “But traditional outsourcing meant recruiting a graduate accountant in the Philippines, training them up in your work practices, and hoping they would become a productive team member for your firm. The value they provided was at a junior level with you doing all of the training for a cheaper labour cost. At Connect, we do things differently. We don’t offer you a single worker; we have our own resource of over 800 fully trained accountants who are available to work on a per-job basis. You can still access the same team to work with, but they don’t require any training and can complete work at a review-ready level. This means you can simply re-focus your business onto client-facing activities and leave the grudge work to us.”
Successful and growing accounting practices throughout the world are utilising this formula.
Here are the 6 keys to retaining your clients:
- Focus on the clients who will bring you the most business. If you have 200 clients, identify which ones will be profitable for the business and where you can create more value-add services. You need to nurture those clients and get to know them and their business needs. Spend time with them to build the relationship.
- Be proactive not reactive. John Morrell suggests creating a 90-day client-retention plan. Design how you will approach client time and plan when you will contact each client. Run a needs analysis process with key clients to find out what their real business needs are. You can then be proactive in offering them more services. Look after your clients and they will refer you to others.
- Communicate benefits clearly with clients. You have to be able to offer real value to your clients and they need to understand how you do this. Explain clearly what you have done (or are going to do) and the savings that have resulted (or should arise) from this work.
- Encourage soft-skill training in your staff alongside your product training. Morrell says current training is still too focused on product knowledge. It needs to include coaching in essential interpersonal skills. Staff need to have the skills to build relationships with clients.
- Be available whenever possible. Remember you are there for your clients’ benefit, not the other way around. Be approachable at all times. Use a client’s first name, smile, show interest in them, and use good listening skills. Tell them that no question is too basic and that there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers!
- Discuss fees openly. Agree costs up-front wherever possible. Clients hate surprises, especially where money is concerned. The size of the fee is often not the issue, but the value, or perceived value, of the services provided for the fee is the key.
Remember, the price of the services you charge matters less than the value you bring to a business. The accounting industry is facing a turning point for its business model- Is it time for you to look transforming your accounting practice? Speak to the team at Connect to see how we can help you to transform your business into a powerhouse of productivity.
Looking for help in gaining new clients or keeping your clients happy? Contact The Referral Guru John Morell for a no obligation conversation for how he can help your practice gain new business.