Many firms we know are renewing their commitment to quality and exceptional client service in 2009. It’s not that they haven’t been committed to it in the past, but candidly, with the abundance of work and shortage of staff we’ve experienced in recent years, most of us have not gone above and beyond to deliver exceptional service and increase the value we can offer our clients. Now, during this uncertain economy as we take an honest inventory of many aspects of our firms, we find that there is an opportunity to enhance our client service – and our value to clients – to a whole new level!
How do you “wow” your clients? Start by asking them. Whether you conduct a full-blown client survey using an online tool like Zoomerang or Survey Monkey or you conduct a face-to-face survey to a select sub-set of clients, you’ll find that asking your clients a few questions about their business, personal goals, and concerns will reap many benefits for your firm when you follow up on the information they provide. Touching base with your clients, formally or informally, will help you increase your value to your clients simply because you’re being proactive. According to a recent survey by CPA News, “CPA clients want their CPA firm to:
1. Take an active interest in their client’s business.
2. Suggest other ways the CPA can assist the client.”
If you aren’t proactively asking your clients about their goals and objectives, concerns, and what’s keeping them up at night, you won’t know how you can help them achieve their objectives or solve their problems. In addition, when you check in with your clients, you can determine if there are any gaps in your level of service that you need to resolve or if your client is referenceable. Lastly, you will often identify new service opportunities you can provide your existing clients.
Consider the following questions adapted from the article, “Top Ten Client Feedback Questions” and how you can use them to learn more about your clients:
• What was the greatest benefit you derived from the service(s) our firm provided?
• What would you like to see more of when you work with our firm?
• How could I improve my service/how could our team improve our level of service?
• Is there anything you would like to see me or our firm stop doing?
• Is there anything you didn’t get from my or our service that you were looking for?
• Has my staff treated you with care, attention, and courteousness?
• Is there an issue that I have not spent enough time on for you?
• Am I providing all that you need?
• Where have we been less than proactive in addressing your concerns?
• Is our billing clear? Are you getting value for your money?
You can use these questions, and add some of your own, to solicit feedback from your clients and find out how you can better serve them. You can survey your clients at the end of each engagement, while meeting with them for a meal to “check in,” or by using a formal client satisfaction survey that also uncovers new service opportunities. For a sample survey template you can customize and weave in some of the suggested questions above, click here.
If you are truly interested in your clients’ feedback, clearly identify how and who will obtain it. When we conduct client surveys for our clients, we help set clear expectations about how each survey owner should report back their findings, how to centralize the feedback so that one person captures it all and when meet to review it as a group so you can make decisions about appropriate follow up and next steps.
A word of caution: if you ask for feedback from your clients, be sure you take it! Use it to decide what changes you can make or actions you can take, such as addressing individual behavioral changes, providing training, improving the documentation of processes, or enhancing communication between you and your client. Be sure to thank your client for the feedback, too, and let them know what you’ll do with it – or why you can’t in certain situations.
The “slower” summer months are a perfect time to “wow” your clients and proactively reach out to them to understand how you can enhance your value to them and provide exceptional client service. What can you commit to do to learn more about your clients and increase the value you provide to them? When do you survey, and what are your favorite questions? Please post a comment to share how you will proactively solicit feedback from your clients and then let us know the outcome! We know you’ll be glad you did – and so will your clients!