Maintaining client relationships is an essential requirement for the growth and success of any business. In addition to developing lasting long-term relationships with existing clients, this will also generate referrals to new prospects.
A healthy client relationship is the basis of all beneficial partnerships and will ultimately differentiate your business from its competitors. However, client relationships can easily slip if you struggle to keep up with clients’ differing and changing needs.
I'll share five quick changes you can make to instantly improve your client relationships and pave the way to maintaining them long-term.
6 changes you can make to improve client relationships
1. Request feedback, and be ready to listen
Requesting honest feedback may seem daunting, but it’s essential. Client feedback provides an insight into how they perceive your firm and what they want from your services. This will reveal which workflows are effective and which need adjusting, allowing you to make amends to your ways of working to better service individual clients. According to a Barclays survey, 85% of SMEs claim that their businesses have benefitted from feedback.
A less obvious but equally important benefit is that asking for feedback improves your relationship with clients. It will show that you aren't only concerned about your bottom line but genuinely want to understand how you can improve your services and better support their business goals.
The first step in gathering client feedback is creating a proper plan. First, you'll need to decide how often you want to receive feedback. Would you like to track client sentiment via a Net Promoter Score, which is sent out over 90 days, or would you prefer an annual but more in-depth 360 review? Alternatively, it could be after completing a particular service. Second, you’ll need to consider how best to receive this; many options exist, including surveys, companies that specialise in collating feedback or even plain old email.
Feedback increases your chances of satisfying clients while allowing insights for improved service delivery.
2. Say thank you
There are over 43,000 accountancy firms in the UK and many more globally. In this competitive market, it's worth saying thank you to clients who have chosen your services. It is important that you appreciate their custom; your business can only succeed through potential clients taking the leap with you.
You can show your appreciation in many ways, from running promotions and rewarding loyal clients to providing early access to new and improved services. But never underestimate the power of a polite and simple ‘thank you’ message and a bunch of flowers.
Discounts and promotions may not be appropriate for some client-firm relationships, but a simple ‘thank you for your custom’ can go a long way to improving your relationship with all clients. Thanking customers doesn't have to be elaborate but deliberate, authentic, sincere, and straightforward.
3. Run an assessment of client satisfaction
The aim of any bookkeeping company or accounting firm is to be profitable. That's possible only when clients are satisfied, which fuels a good client relationship and revenue. This may be quite challenging as clients have varying standards and levels of needs.
Your clients are busy and have their own challenges. That can often mean doing a good job and providing top customer service doesn't guarantee their satisfaction. Therefore, it is vital to run an assessment, but there also needs to be a deep understanding of each client. Unlike feedback, this focuses on one specific metric; satisfaction. To assess client satisfaction effectively, you need a system that encourages customers to open up about their business needs.
There are many methods of measuring client satisfaction, but one of the most effective is the Customer Satisfaction Score. Ranked on a scale of 1 to 3, 5, or 7, the CSAT measures how satisfied or unsatisfied clients are with your services. You can review this score by client or add all the scores and divide this by the number of respondents to reveal the firm’s average.
This is a quick and easy way to gauge how happy your clients are with your services. If a previously satisfied client suddenly rates the firm at a 1 or 2, you will know that you need to act quickly to save the relationship. Positive replies can boost morale among team members, and negative replies provide opportunities for improvement.
We also recommend creating a plan for incorporating customer assessments into your workflows. Clients like feeling they influence operations and that their assessments are taken on board. A survey by Salesforce Research revealed that 91% are likely to make another purchase after a positive experience. Taking this into account, it is worth assessing client satisfaction directly after completing a specific task or delivery.
4. Be preemptive in your problem-solving
Clients expect their accounting and bookkeeping firms to find quick solutions to their problems. However, the problems faced by clients vary dramatically from account to account. Being preemptive in your problem-solving means moving away from a reactive mindset. Rather than waiting for clients to come to you with questions and issues, use the previously mentioned assessments and daily communication to proactively identify potential issues that you can help solve.
The same applies to problems caused by the firm. While we all do our best to avoid mistakes, they do happen. A client is far more willing to forgive and forget when you have identified and rectified the issue before they’ve had a chance to notice. A good way to regain their trust after a mishap is to put measures in place to prevent a repeat occurrence. This signals to them that you hold their business in high esteem and care about providing real value.
When solving a problem for a client, you should strive to make it as stress-free as possible. The first step is to identify the problem and explain this clearly and effectively. If it is necessary to explain why the problem has arisen, do so. Alternatively, simply make sure the client knows that you have acknowledged they aren’t having their needs met as they deserve. Next, and perhaps most importantly, provide actionable advice and next steps outlining how to work around the issue.
5. Keep clients involved and updated
Continuous communication with clients is critical. A successful client relationship relies on open lines of communication between the firm and the client. Clients are more comfortable when they feel involved in and updated about what your team is doing behind the scenes, as well as that you’re delivering what you promised. It can be challenging for clients to envisage what their accountancy firm is doing between reporting periods, which is why keeping them up-to-date with progress is critical.
Keeping clients in the loop can reduce their anxiety that your team aren’t busy; this is key to improving client relationships because they can and will take their business elsewhere if they believe you do not care about them, as revealed in a SuperOffice survey. Regularly inform your clients of any updates and developments that affect them and their business, and you’ll be well on your way to making sure they feel well looked after.
It's also essential to take the time to connect with clients on an individual level, rather than treating them as another cog in the wheel. The method of communication can be tailored to suit each individual and the business they represent, but popular forms for providing updates include:
- Weekly status updates, which can be done via email or a quick phone call
- Task commencement and completion updates
- Monthly recaps
- Monthly reports
- Real-time chat
- Reminders of approaching deadlines
- Using Pixie to send automated reminders and assign clients tasks
In the end, what matters is that you keep lines of communication open. That means providing means for clients to also reach out to you whenever they want and making sure that you shine a light on the work you’re doing and don’t leave them in the dark.
6. Implement practice management software
Hundreds if not thousands of messages are shared between firms and clients each week. These include updates, to-do’s, documents that require signatures and more. And it’s impossible to keep track of everything via email. However, failing to keep track of all these critical communications can result in a relationship breakdown over time, especially if your team begins to start dropping balls.
That’s why we recommend implementing practice management software to help you do the best work possible; these handy tools can help you keep track of information pertaining to your clients, manage your workflows and onboard clients effectively. One of the most important elements of practice management software is that it supports customer relationship management.
Customer relationship management (CRM) is a process that often uses software solutions to help businesses manage their professional relationships with existing and potential clients. These systems make it possible to accomplish many tasks that will help foster a healthy client relationship.
A CRM lets you manage sales, streamline work processes, collect information and feedback, schedule communications, solve problems, and more. Using CRM software is crucial for small but ambitious businesses with a growing customer base, though it is beneficial for any company, no matter its size. Simply, a CRM makes keeping track of information relating to your clients as simple as possible.
Tracking every interaction ensures there are no crossed wires or dropped balls and allows you and your clients to revisit previous conversations and decisions weeks and even months later. Plus, a practice management system provides your firm with the tools it needs to streamline client workflows, develop better client relationships and generate more income.