By Jean Marie Caragher
According to the Seven Keys to Successful CPA Firm Management the number one reason why clients change CPA firms is “poor client service, inattentiveness.” During this stressful, deadline-driven season it’s especially important to remember to focus on client service.
Here are six factors your clients will use to rate your client service this tax season, adapted from research conducted by Leonard L. Berry, Valarie A. Zeithaml and A. Parasuraman.
- Tangibles. The physical aspects of your service, including:
- The appearance of your building/office
- Computers, telephone systems
- The appearance of your team members
- Communications materials, brochures, correspondence, emails and website
- Financial statements and tax returns
- Reliability. Performing the promised service dependably and accurately. Consider:
- Performing the required services at the agreed-upon time
- The accuracy of your billing
- Safe keeping of files and client information
- Responsiveness. The readiness of your team to provide service, including:
- Returning phone calls and emails promptly.
- Caring, and providing individualized attention to clients.
- Working as a team to meet clients’ needs.
- Access. The availability and ease of contacting your partners and staff. Ask yourself:
- Can clients reach me directly or do they need to go through a gatekeeper?
- How long are clients kept on hold?
- How promptly do I return phone calls and emails?
- Do I share my schedule so my team knows when I’m in and out of the office?
- Am I setting aside enough time to participate in client meetings?
- Communications. Keeping clients informed in language they can understand. Consider:
- Explaining the outcome of their tax return in a clear, simple way.
- Offering ideas and advice for the coming year.
- Publishing an e-newsletter that includes practical, relevant information.
- Updating your website with relevant articles, blog posts, videos and checklists.
- Understanding the client. Making the effort to understand the client’s needs, including:
- Taking the time to learn about your client’s specific situation.
- Asking questions to uncover the client’s needs.
- Listening to the client’s responses and taking notes for follow up.
Notice I didn’t mention technical competence. Your clients assume you know what you’re doing. They are evaluating how you make them feel, the way you provide your services, and if deadlines are met.
How will you know if your client service efforts are successful? Ask your clients. Conduct a client satisfaction survey after tax season to measure your level of client service. This is an initiative only the minority of firms execute, enabling them to back up their promise of providing superior client service with the evidence. Your client survey results will identify areas that need improvement and instill pride in your team – and your clients will appreciate being asked for their feedback.
Jean Marie Caragher is president of Capstone Marketing, providing marketing consulting services to CPA firms. Download her free eBook, Client Satisfaction Surveys for Accounting Firms: The Answers to Your Most Frequently Asked Questions. Contact her at 727.210.7306 or firstname.lastname@example.org.