Eight keys unlock the secret to making clients love
September 8, 2009
Clients choose CPA firms based on many factors, one of the most notable being the reputation or brand that’s built through word-of-mouth advertising. In today’s competitive market, brand matters. While companies design logos and slogans in the hope of making the client experience more positive, powerful and productive, but ultimately it’s important to consider how clients really experience your brand. The answer is: Through your company’s employees and staff members.
Brand comes alive for your clients in their interactions with your front-line representatives. Whoever touches the client embodies it. For that reason, CPA firms need to define behavioral accountabilities and communicate them to their staff from top down. For firms that fail to connect the dots between brand strategy and front-line behavior, the risk is that their strategy will fall short and be forgotten over time. Nice logo, but no lasting impact!
For example, visit your local bank. Their brand is visible in signage, collateral, building décor — all the trappings of a well-designed brand strategy. Sound familiar? These are meant to communicate the message: “We care.” Let’s say, however, that you pass by the signage and step up to the teller window. And suppose you meet a bank representative who is ill-groomed, lacking presence and lacking social grace. Despite all the effort to create a consistent brand message, this interaction with the teller becomes your experience of the bank’s brand. It’s no longer about the colors in the logo; this bank’s teller — and your experience at the teller’s window — becomes the brand in your eyes — the client — in ways that spell failure for the bank.
Your People Are Your Brand
What are you doing to manage how your brand is represented in every employee? What you should ask: Is it fair to have expectations about how your employees interact with clients, groom themselves, and conduct themselves by their manners and their presence? The answer is, “Yes. Tricky, but fair.” In fact, it’s imperative.
In an era when professional organizations are extensions of the education system and extensions of our families, CPA firms have an obligation to provide training and guidance on aspects of its employees’ professional demeanor that impact individual and company success. Cultural tolerance and respect in the workplace do not mean a lack of accountability for representing oneself in a way that reflects well on the firm.
Consider four critical factors that are part of how an individual in your firm represents your brand:
Discussions on these topics are sometimes overlooked or avoided among colleagues because they can be taboo topics or tough messages to deliver. While feedback in these areas may constitute difficult discussions to host with an employee, ignore them at your peril, and at the peril of your brand.
Turn Slogans Into Action
Training and coaching for your employees need to go beyond communicating the concept of your brand. You need to translate brand into behavior. Train and coach client-facing representatives understand how to engage a client, how to dress, how to impress a client and how to address an audience.
Here are four steps to align individual employee behavior with brand strategy:
Defining a brand strategy is an important first step for enhancing the client experience of your organization. The trick is to not stop at the logos and slogans. Take steps to communicate how an individual’s behaviors align with the company’s intended image. Also train and coach your employees to be effective in those behaviors. In this way, the promise of your brand isn’t just words on a page; but comes alive in positive ways with profitable returns.
Molly Sargent is the Principal of Norwalk, Connecticut-based Professional Impressions Consulting. She has trained and coached thousands of financial professionals and client-facing executives in professional image, presentation skills, business etiquette and sales effectiveness. Since 1985, Molly has helped major accounting firms and Fortune 500 companies, including Aetna, American Express, AT&T, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Key Bank, MasterCard, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Prudential achieve breakthrough results.