Measuring Your Client Onboarding Efforts
Client Satisfaction

Measuring Your Client Onboarding Efforts

Before we can cover measuring your client onboarding efforts, we need to start with how to define the type of client experience you want to deliver. According to McKinsey, “When companies set out to define their customer experience aspiration, they often fall into one or both of two traps: either the aspiration is generic and does not align tightly to the company’s purpose, or it’s unclear how the aspiration will create value that can be measured and tracked. Falling into either of these two traps leads to CX-transformation programs that lack clarity and coherence.”

Adapting McKinsey’s article, The Three Building Blocks of Customer-Experience Transformations, here are some things to consider:

  • Your customer experience aspiration needs to deliver on your firm’s purpose and brand promise.
  • Translate your aspirations into expected business value by defining the specific changes in client behavior you expect to see.
  • Once you have prioritized the experiences with the greatest potential impact on client behavior, identify your firm’s internal processes and technology capabilities you need to reimagine.

Analytics to Track

The result of your efforts above will determine the analytics to track for your firm. Be sure the quantity of information is something you can track consistently.

According to Judy Bodenhamer, founder and managing director of Client Experience Group, the top three analytics to track are:

  • Welcome letters sent. The letter can also be accompanied with a promotional item. For example, one of Bodenhamer’s clients sends new clients a business book to communicate that their firm is more than a tax and audit firm. “It sets the tone for the experience they will have,” says Bodenhamer. Send within two weeks.
  • Welcome calls conducted. The calls can be made by the firm’s managing partner or service/industry leader within 30 days of sending the welcome letter.
  • Client team introductions. These are coordinated discussions with the client – $5,000 minimum fee – and their client service team. For lesser-fee clients, the discussion is probably led by the person doing the work, or a young associate provided with a script.

According to Mitchell Reno, principal and director of client experience at Rehmann, the analytics that matter, are:

  • The percentage of data completion in client set-up. “Firms set up the minimum on clients to get the job started, thinking they will get the rest of the data later,” says Reno. “Nope, you will not ever get complete and accurate data if you do not do it out of the gate.”
  • The “time to launch.” This is the amount of time from the engagement letter being signed to beginning to charge time.

At BKD, Greg Cole, CMO, works on the firm’s pipeline, reviewing the funnel of how leads come in, how they are qualified, and spend with the client. Using their Tableau dashboard, he also tracks SEO engagement, inbound leads (webinar attendance, contact forms), and develops quarterly reports regarding SEO and website visitors.

How to Collect and Track Information

Collecting and tracking data for your firm’s client experience and onboarding is detail-oriented and time-consuming. It is important to identify who is responsible for this initiative.

Bodenhamer shared how firms identify client relationship managers to serve as day-to-day contacts. “These may be different than the partner contact,” she explains, “but should be a manager or technical person to answer questions.”

BKD employs a data team of five people, with one usually serving as a data concierge. After Introhive cleans up the emails in BKD’s database, the data concierge continues to clean the data. Then, the data concierge invites new clients to sign up for firm Thoughtware®. They also contact current clients, starting with the largest. This contact must have value involved. “There is no substitute for a note or phone call, here is something of value you may find interesting,” shares Cole. “The data concierge is investing time in the client relationship to build trust.” It is important to have the right person. “The data concierge must be personable and be able to talk to high-level executives,” says Cole.

At the end of 2018, Kingsbery CPAs hired client excellence coordinators (CEC) to serve as the quarterback for each of the four shareholder’s clients. Shareholders sent an introductory email to their clients about this new position. The CEC is ‘here for you,’ is the main contact for questions and documents, delivering tax returns, and will be able to respond right away. Kingsbery received no pushback from clients, and CECs are now included in the initial calls with new clients. Project management software, Aptivo, breaks down the tax return process – determining the most effective way, following the same process – and knows the members on each client team. “CECs remove administrative duties from shareholders and enable them to focus on what they are good at,” says Brittany Olsen, client relationship director.

A Digital Transformation Journey

Ten years ago, BKD did not use client data very much. Now, the firm uses Marketo and is building their digital transformation. About five years ago, BKD conducted a client survey and discovered they did not have email addresses for 768 of their top 2,500 clients!

“This was a red flag,” said Cole. “At the time, only name and address were required to get a client number. Now, names, titles, emails, NAIC codes, and deeper industry data, e.g., hospital beds, must be provided.”

BKD conducts a quarterly client survey by transaction and hours. Managing partners get involved if the information is not there. “Internal folks know the email will be needed for the quarterly survey,” Cole explains, “so they may as well get it at the beginning.” Explain the importance of team members taking the time to provide marketing with client demographics on the front end. Let them know what you are going to do with the information.

BKD uses a proprietary tool called Validata to manage their data. The firm has different data in different databases, e.g., CRM, time and billing, and other legacy systems. Cole described Validata as a connector database that feeds all the others to ensure they have synced data between all of the different data points. “The best way to get good data is to have it come through one door and feed everything else,” Cole explains. “Then, there is an ongoing process on the back end to keep that data clean.”

Prospects are driven to BKD’s website whenever someone clicks on a call-to-action, whether it is from the 11 million emails they sent last year or social media posts. Once they hit BKD’s website, marketing starts tracking the IP addresses. “Then, we dangle content, whether it be a whitepaper or a webinar or something else of value for them to give us their name and email address,” explains Cole. “From that point, we start scoring those prospects to show their engagement. When they hit 80 points – defined as a qualified lead – we pass them off to the office as a qualified lead with some information on what they are looking at and what they are interested in. Given the effort we make on a prospect to convert them to a client,” says Cole, “it is super important to put equal effort into their very first experience to give them a favorable first impression.”

Conclusion

Measuring your client onboarding efforts requires a process, data, manpower, and accountability to be successful. It is a worthwhile and necessary initiative that can impact your firm’s bottom line. For those at smaller firms who think larger firms have an advantage and deep resources for client onboarding: “Small firms may have an advantage getting their people on board as opposed to BKD with 40 offices in 18 states,” said Cole.

* This article was originally published in the Association for Accounting Marketing blog on May 19, 2021.

Marketing

How Marketers Can Take a Lead Role in New Service Development

How Accounting Firm Marketers Can Take a Lead Role in New Service Development

By Jean Marie Caragher

Melody Marketer was invited on a Zoom call with her firm’s director of advisory services, Dave.

“Hi, Melody,” says Dave. “Great to see you. I’m excited to share with you the details of a new service we created for our technology clients. We need your help with promoting it.”

Sound familiar? Rather than using Melody’s marketing expertise to help develop the new service, she was called in after the fact for promotional purposes.

How can marketers take a lead role in new service development from the beginning? Here are three examples to learn from.

Grassi’s Crisis Response & Recovery Services

The COVID-19 pandemic has given us both challenges and opportunities. One opportunity is developing and packaging new services to help clients. Lou Grassi, managing partner, held a firm-wide virtual meeting to rally his team. He asked for volunteers who wanted to do more. Enthusiasm, commitment to learning and providing value were required.

Sarah Cirelli, marketing practice leader, is one of those who showed up to the optional meetings and gained a seat at the table. After several Zoom overnights of brainstorming and meetings Grassi’s Crisis Response Recovery services was launched in mid-March.

Grassi conducted 100 webinars, attracting 3,000 attendees. The firm helped over 400 companies apply for emergency funding. Technology and human resources consulting projects were generated.

Grassi received lots of questions coming into the hotline from small businesses – not ideal clients for the firm. They arranged Small Business Support Saturday on May 2, which included Zoom rooms by topic. More than 350 small business owners and nonprofit leaders received support and guidance for free.

Cirelli is most proud of their SWAT Workbook. Standing for Special Weapons and Tactics, SWAT is an automated tool that holds all their Crisis Response & Recovery services marketing data, including every person who attended a webinar, called into the hotline, the questions they asked, the industry they operated in, and where they were in the lead generation process was rolled into a dashboard.

Grassi’s Crisis Response & Recovery services has generated thousands of leads. “I’ve seen a level of teamwork and camaraderie I’ve never seen before,” says Cirelli. “It didn’t matter the time of day or what needed to be done, everyone showed up. It was fun.”

“Our marketing team is stronger having gone through this as opposed to working day-to-day together,” Cirelli continues. “Our entire marketing team stepped up and took responsibility. We were challenged to come up with a new way of doing things. Being involved in the strategy gave marketing a chance to shine.”

“If you can’t see the path to getting a seat at the table,” says Cirelli, “most often the shortest path is to step up and prove you deserve it.”

MOD Ventures

In January 2019, BeachFleischman PC and GMLCPA PLLC, an outsourced client accounting and advisory services firm, formed a joint venture to launch a virtual firm, MOD Ventures, LLC. MOD Ventures combines GMLCPA with the client accounting services department of BeachFleischman to form a company that serves entrepreneurial and small-to-mid-sized business clients remotely all over the U.S. and internationally.

“I wanted to try a new business model,” explains Eric Majchrzak, shareholder and chief strategy officer of BeachFleischman. “MOD Ventures is all virtual, all home-based with QuickBooks Online as the hub. All services are priced in advance, using three options.”

Majchrzak wrote the business plan for MOD Ventures, presented it to the firm’s shareholders, and gained the buy-in. It took 4-6 months from conception to launch.

What are the benefits of including marketers in new service development? “Marketers are ambassadors from the client perspective,” explains Majchrzak, “anticipating the needs of prospects and customers. Marketers bring a different point of view and are not internally focused. For example, Does it make sense for the client?”

Majchrzak believes marketers need to be a part of developing the strategy and marketing plans for new services and businesses. “Marketers need to ask for the responsibility – fully or in part,” he says. “You are already in the driver’s seat to help on the front end, the execution, and growing it.”

“When you are launching something new, try to anticipate as much as you can,” says Majchrzak, “so you know how to report, how to handle situations, and how to know if it’s working or not.”

“Have your ears to the ground,” Majchrzak continues. “Marketers can be the ‘dot connectors’ between levels, departments, and offices. Be the eyes and ears and connect the dots.”

Forward/Slash

Geffen Mesher launched its Client Accounting Services (CAS) practice in Spring 2019 and it was gaining traction among clients with whom the firm already had very close relationships. When Katrina Scotto di Carlo joined the firm as marketing director in September 2019, leadership was already considering expanding the CAS practice and utilizing marketing to do so.

Scotto di Carlo started by building a Value Proposition Canvas, which you can pick up for free on this website. Once she understood the value proposition, they profiled all the potential target markets for the service and selected one as the “beachhead”, a whittled down target market with specific characteristics that (1) make it more winnable and (2) a proper stepping stone to further market saturation. With this research done, she built the brand guide and client experience map with her two assistants helping with development of both. She used both of these tools to inform the website design as well as the marketing automation backend.

Forward/Slash is the first branded division in Geffen Mesher’s history. Scotto di Carlo recommended they spin CAS off as Forward/Slash. “The brand of our 87-year-old accounting firm could not easily transition into the forward-thinking identity that we needed with this practice area,” she explains. “Forward/Slash is a new form of accounting that utilizes artificial intelligence. We needed a younger, fresh identity that easily communicated these qualities to prospective clients.”

It comes as no surprise that COVID-19 was the biggest challenge in creating and launching Forward/Slash. “It was a perfect storm where Forward/Slash was built to help businesses going through the exact stress that COVID-19 was inflicting upon them,” explains Scotto di Carlo, “so we wanted to launch asap. I appreciate how much independence the firm gave me in decision-making and execution because this made the process much smoother than it could have been. Without that trust, the challenges may have been formidable.” Scotto di Carlo believes marketing today is a unique competency with an extremely sophisticated toolset for new service development. “A seasoned marketing professional builds the infrastructure for client acquisition and retention,” she explains, “giving us an understanding of the client journey that is unparalleled in the firm. I’m very grateful to be at a firm that understands that value and graciously shares insight with marketing so we can grow in our understanding of clients.”

Conclusion

It is clear that marketers need to play a lead role in new service development to achieve the greatest chance for success. If you have not yet earned this role, listen, be the ‘dot connector’, ask for the responsibility, and demonstrate what you can bring to the table.

This article was originally published in the August 2020 AAM Minute.