Communication is key. And in accounting firms, we often need to be able to communicate with multiple clients or multiple client types at once....
Should You Automate Client Communication?
Automating communication supports efficiency and consistency, but can it feel cold? We debate the case for and against automating client communication.
Client communication is the bedrock of a healthy client-firm relationship. From responding to enquiries to getting to know long-term clients and even dealing with complaints, how your firm engages with clients could lead to your success — or spell disaster.
In fact, customer service is so vital that 50% of consumers will switch to a competitor after one bad experience, and 80% will switch to a competitor after more than one bad experience.
The way I see it, you have one chance to get your client communication right. If your client communication is poor, you can say goodbye to retention and referrals. But when it’s good, you can build long-lasting partnerships that can weather any storm.
How can automating client communication affect client relationships?
Regular emails and phone calls are at the core of client communication, but these are also time-consuming tasks which keep team members from other necessary tasks.
On the one hand, automation allows for quick response times and consistent messaging for all clients and cuts down on admin for your team. But on the other hand, if poorly used, automated client communication can seem impersonal and frustrating to clients who would rather talk directly with your team.
Is automating client communication the key to improved efficiency and better client relationships? Or is it a barrier to more long-term and personal client-firm relationships?
What types of communication can be automated?
Automation works best for client communications which reoccur regularly or where the same information needs to be shared with many people, like email reminders or client onboarding flows.
Let’s dig into a few forms of communication you can automate:
- Recurring email communication: The most common form of automated client communication is email automation. Tools like Pixie allow you to set up email responses to triggers making it easier to respond quickly and consistently to clients. For example, if you want to remind clients to send tax information ahead of year-end, you can create an email to be sent on a specific date.
- Nurture campaigns: Automation can be used to create nurturing campaigns and marketing emails to engage with prospective clients.
- Client onboarding: Another example of automated client communication includes welcome emails as part of client onboarding.
- Reminders: Many tools, from practice management to invoicing software, have built-in automated reminders for clients, such as reminders for late payments, overdue tasks and documents awaiting signature.
- Website enquiries: Client communication can also be automated on your website in the form of chatbots to answer common user queries and direct people to the right department in your team for their questions.
- Could your blog be used for client communication? Your company blog is a great resource for client communication; automating this process makes everyone’s lives easier.
You can set up an RSS feed for clients and prospects to subscribe to. When you publish a new blog post, a message promoting the article is sent directly to their email address. Automation can help segment your mailing list to send the most relevant content to each group if you have several distinct client segments.
The case for automating client communications
Checking in with your clients regularly is vital for maintaining positive client-firm relationships. But as your client base grows, it can become hard for team members to track which client they’ve spoken to recently and who is due for a call.
Setting up automations for basic messages such as onboarding workflows, quarterly check-ins and timely reminders will reduce human error or delays in communication and build warm relationships with clients.
This frees up time for team members to work on other important tasks which help drive your firm's growth, rather than tying up all their time speaking to the same clients.
It also helps to make sure clients are getting consistent, attentive communication, whether they are a large corporation or a sole trader.
And you shouldn’t need to compromise on the human touch element that’s integral to good client communication. Most automation tools are smart enough to respond to client actions to create a more human experience. For instance, if a client responds to an automated email chasing them for information or payment, they won’t then receive a second email about the same topic.
The case against automating client communication
However, there is an argument that automating client communication removes the personal feel from client-firm relationships and can be frustrating for users who want to talk to a team member about their concerns.
If your triggers aren’t set up correctly, clients could receive messages that aren’t relevant to them or receive too many emails in too short a time, leading to a poor experience.
When the same message is sent out to many clients, it also reduces the opportunity for personalisation where you might have otherwise followed up on a personal anecdote or asked after specific projects. These small yet personal touches are all little moments that improve the bond between team members and their clients and build a great reputation for your accountancy firm.
It’s also true that in the case of errors or complaints, chatbots can be incredibly frustrating for clients to deal with. Managing finances is an incredibly important and potentially stressful aspect of running any business. If your clients are feeling anxious about their money, the last thing they want is to be held at arm's length by an AI bot when all they want is to talk with a person who can quickly and calmly resolve their issue.
Making automation work for your firm
Can automated communications be personalised?
You may see email marketing companies advertising personalised email automations. That means using client or subscriber data to create emails that appear to be tailored to that specific recipient.
If you record details such as a client or prospect’s name, business, or location in your CRM (customer relationship management) software, it’s easy to create automated emails that are only sent to a specific segment of your client base and are addressed directly to them.
For instance, you might want to automatically send a welcome email only to new clients who have signed up to your services in the last week. With personalisation, you can make it seem like it was written specifically for them by tailoring the subject and greeting to include their first name.
How can you monitor the impact of automation in your client communications?
What’s great about automated client communications is that it’s simple to understand what is working well and what needs to be improved.
Using your email management, you can collect lots of useful data on email engagement, such as the open rate, the click-through rate and the response rate of each message. This information can help you understand what your clients and prospects are engaging with most.
The benchmarks for good open and response rates vary across industries, but a general goal would be a 29.55% open rate.
You can also monitor the impact of automation on client communication by keeping an eye on your team’s productivity. Gather qualitative evidence by speaking to team members before and after the introduction of automation, comparing the responses to review whether or not it has positively impacted their productivity and workload management.
Lastly, you should monitor two critical metrics: your client retention and turnover rates. Keep an eye on these to understand how they have been affected by your new way of working.
How Pixie can help you automate client communication without losing the personal touch
When automated client communication is used well, it can help drive companies towards their goals for growth. But at the end of the day, sometimes it’s necessary to pick up the phone.
Pixie helps firms take a hybrid approach, automating some elements of client communications and leaving the rest to the real people at your firm to manage. Pixie’s automation tools can help accountancy firms automate communication and build better client relationships, from sending out email updates to clients to creating task lists that remind team members when reaching out to certain clients.
Book a demo today to learn more about how to supercharge your client communication with Pixe.