I received some great feedback from our last conversation about reciprocating referrals. It seems like most of us are in the same boat … we get more referrals than we could ever possibly hope to return. So we do our best by promising to do good work. It makes for an interesting segue into today’s discussion.
Customer experience is all the rage now. Everywhere you look (if you’re looking), businesses are trying to redefine what it means to be their customer so they can keep the customer. But who is a customer to us? Is it the referral source or their client? And what customer experience can we create for them?
And if you’re new here, welcome aboard. This is what we do!
When it comes to knowing what to do and how to do it, landing new clients can seem like a long winding road. The seasoned professionals in our BVFLS industry can help you shave off some of those switchbacks and hairpin turns. Starting next week, you will be able to register for the inaugural episode of Practice Development INSIDER, the new webinar series I’ve created.
Scheduled Q3 guests are Chris Mercer (Jul 12), Jim Hitchner (Aug 2), and Nancy Fannon (Sep 6). You will notice that all of the webinars are on Fridays … because there is no better day for winding down the week and working on your practice.
Client experience … who is our client
Do you consider your clients to be your referral sources or their clients? Given the once-and-done nature of almost all of my valuation and litigation engagements, I consider referral sources to be my clients – but I also know I have to keep my clients’ clients happy.
Most businesses don’t have to worry about creating a positive experience for a client and the client’s client – but we do.
Client experience … what is it
A recent article in Accounting Today says, “ ‘Client experience’ is best defined as how you meet your clients’ needs at every point over the lifespan of the relationship.” So think about every point of our interaction with clients (and clients’ clients).
It starts with the moment our client walks in our door (well, your office door … certainly not my RV door). But do clients even come to your office, or do you go to theirs as a matter of convenience? Maybe that is one part of the client experience we create.
It ends with the delivery of the report, which we most often deliver to the referral source, not their client; and the quality of our report then filters back to their client. But the fact is that the quality of the report, alone, is no longer enough of a differentiator in our world.
Client experience … why is it important
From that Accounting Today article, the research company Gartner is quoted as saying 89% of businesses today expect to compete mostly on client experience, versus only 36% four years ago. That’s a huge shift.
For the BVFLS profession, this means that to effectively compete on a playing field that continues to level out, mastering the client experience is key to attracting and maintaining our clients so we can level up.
Client experience … how to create it
If the client experience involves every interaction we have with them, we need to evaluate every step we take our clients through. Here are some ideas I have written about previously.
And by easy, I mostly mean less friction. For example, I removed all of the legalese from my engagement letters so they are easier to understand.
And my engagement letters don’t have to be signed/returned. Payment of the retainer constitutes the client’s acceptance of all terms and conditions.
And that payment can be made via PayPal, ACH payment, or wire transfer.
What feedback do you get throughout the engagement and at the end of it? Because we can’t improve the client experience if we don’t know how/where we are falling short.
Here are five questions I ask:
- How did you find me?
- Why did you hire me?
- Is there one thing I do better than others you work with?
- Is there one thing I could have done to create a better experience for you?
- Do you recommend me to others? Why or why not?
I know … we dread talking to clients about this stuff. But if we ask these questions, just the act of doing so might differentiate us from our competition from our clients’ perspective.
Our services aren’t cheap. And yet, how many of us regularly check in with fee-paying clients during engagements to let them know about the progress we’re making?
Because they are paying for the right to receive the service … have it delivered on time, as promised … and be kept up-to-date all along the way.
It’s also what we would expect and want if we plunked down a 4- or 5-figure sum for similar professional services.
Many professional service companies are recognizing the importance of delivering a rich client experience to differentiate themselves from the competition. Will you be one of them? Because your report isn’t the only deliverable you are being judged on.
In real life
When you think about every interaction you have with clients, what does your overall client experience look like? And how does the experience you offer now make your clients feel?
And even if we perform transactional services (like tax- or fair value-purpose valuations), I believe the key to providing better client experiences lies in making them feel that we provide transformational services.
Reading that can help
Client experience is where it’s at from Accounting Today.
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