“The Donald” elevated the words “You’re fired” to a whole new level with the hit TV show The Apprentice. As the new season gets underway, it’s a good time to ask “Am I in jeopardy of hearing those words from my clients in 2010?”
It is difficult to think about anything else right now, much less a subject that could affect your wallet, when you are working at “warp speed” to serve your clients. Unfortunately this is the time you need to focus on it most. Why? If you are at risk, now’s the time to do something about it. Otherwise it might be too late.
Here are five reasons your clients could be saying those feared two words to you once tax season is over:
- Not making time for your clients, even when you are busy.
I recently had an MRI for a damaged rotator cuff. I can’t tell you how reassuring it was when my doctor took the time to sit down with me to review the findings, help me make sense of them and answer my questions. Sure he was busy. The waiting room was packed, but he made me feel like I was the only patent he had that day. To him, those findings were probably just like those he had gone through with 10 other patients earlier in the week. His actions not only demonstrated how important I was to him, but they helped me understand that he cared about helping me get better. As a result I trusted the advice he shared with me.
Are you making time for your clients this busy season? Are you reviewing reports and findings with them or are you leaving them at the front desk with a note that says “call me with questions?” Can you imagine how I would have felt if my orthopedist had done that with my MRI report? I wouldn’t have had a clue where to begin interpreting them. Bet your clients feel the same way about those reports you have prepared for them. It might be just another report to you, but not to them. It, along with your advice and insight, are what they pay you for.
- Providing a marginal client experience.
What kind of client experience is your firm providing this busy season? Clients are looking for more than an average experience from their advisors. In the new economy, providing just “the basics” is not good enough. Unfortunately only 11 percent of organizations are reported to provide an “excellent” client experience to their customers these days. In his book, The Ultimate Question, Management Consultant Fred Reichheld, demonstrates that exceptional customer experience creates loyalty and that a five-percent increase in customer loyalty increases lifetime profits by as much as 95 percent!
Keep in mind that client experiences will not be based solely on your interaction with them, but on all the people who have a hand in the process. Yes, my experience with the orthopedist was an exceptional one. Although I went to see one specific professional, many people were involved. The experience began the moment I made an appointment and continued when I was pleasantly greeted at the front desk. It continued on the walk to the examining room with a warm and caring staff member and the handoff to a physician’s assistant — all before seeing the orthopedist. Each step was a positive part of my experience that reflected heavily on how I viewed the medical group as a whole. One bad interaction along the way, however, could have put the whole experience in jeopardy.
Other factors that can impact the client experience include a visit to your Web site for directions, office hours and phone numbers. Then there’s the waiting room experience, how you make them feel each time you connect with them, the insights you provide and how billing is handled, to name a few. Make sure every interaction with your clients is a positive one. Marginal client experiences fail to demonstrate value and build trust, causing the client to question the relationship.
- Failing to identify opportunities for improvement.
The new standards that client’s value involve identifying opportunities for improvement. Are you sharing new insights that you discovered this busy season when presenting client reports or are you sticking to the contents of your reports? Don’t disappoint your clients with only report reviews. If so, all that talk of being a proactive advisor will go out the window and your good intentions will be replaced by offering up a commodity. Whether it’s presentation anxiety, feeling like a used car salesman or simply not wanting to spend the time for another discussion, you are putting yourself at risk. Warning! If you don’t venture into new territory with clients, you significantly risk hearing “You’re fired!”
- Not saying ‘thank you’ and meaning it
Do your clients know how much you appreciate them? When clients sense they are not important to you or they feel less important than they once were, it casts doubt in their minds. It also makes it easier for them to field calls from other CPAs requesting a meeting.
It’s amazing how powerful the words “thank you” can make, especially in an age when customer service is at all-time lows. Taking the time to say “thank you” to your clients for being loyal goes a long way these days. Tell them how much they mean to you. Tell them why you enjoy working with them. Since actions speak louder than words, show them how much you appreciate their business every chance you get.
- Not asking ‘what else?’
On a recent trip to the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, renown for world-class customer service, I noticed that when anyone on the staff helps a guest, they always end the conversation with a simple question. “What else can I help you with today?” Are you asking that question to each of your clients at the conclusion of your meetings? Another way to phrase the question is “What else is on your mind today?” If you are not asking these questions, you may be missing opportunities to help bring new focus to each client’s situation. Not only does asking these questions show them you care, it can present the perfect opening to provide additional engagements.
Don’t Take Any Chances
No one wants to hear those dreaded words “You’re fired” from their clients. Hopefully you are not at risk with any of your clients in the near future. Truth be told, we are all at risk every day. Don’t take any chances.
Additional Resources: AICPA PCPS Center.
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Tracy Crevar Warren is the founder of The Crevar Group. She is a sought-after consultant, facilitator, author and speaker. Her practical, results-oriented approach helps professional services firms build more profitable practices. She advises clients on practice growth, culture development, sales and marketing. She inspires and empowers local, regional, national and international audiences to grow their practices by doing more of the work they love. Warren can be reached at 336-889-GROW (4769).