In News

Shutterstock_507199120You’re staying at a hotel in a city you’ve never visited before. After you check in and unpack your bags, you realize you’ve forgotten your pajamas and it’s too late to shop. You walk down to the lobby and mention your predicament to the front desk clerk. Sympathetically, she offers a solution. She tells you to have a seat and serves you a cup of hot tea and a perfectly warm and melty chocolate chip cookie. After just a few minutes, another staff member approaches you with a package of blue cotton pajamas. She explains they’re offered to you complementary for your stay.

Increasingly, consumers are valuing their overall customer experience much more than any tangible product or service they may receive. It’s what keeps them satisfied and coming back for more. You, too, have an opportunity to create exceptional and memorable experiences for your clients. What are you doing to keep them coming back for more? Here are three things to consider as you strive to go above and beyond for your clients:

1. What’s your current client experience like?

It’s important to take the time to examine how you’re doing things and whether you can improve. Consider creating a satisfaction survey (here’s a good template you can use) and asking your clients what they experience at your firm. You’ll want to capture responses from as many clients as you can for a true depiction of the current experience. Maybe offer a small gift card to the local coffee shop to those who respond as a thank you for their time and insight. In your survey, don’t be afraid to ask clients for suggestions on ways you and your staff can improve the overall experience. Knowing what your clients think about your services and firm will help you identify and prioritize your goals, so you can offer solutions and create exceptional experiences that best meet their needs.

2. Dig deeper to understand what matters most to your clients.

The results of your client satisfaction survey may surprise you. Go a step further and ask your clients to meet one-on-one. Get away from the office and meet over lunch or coffee (with their favorite cookie or pastry, of course). Go into the meeting with the intention of gaining a solid understanding of what matters most to them. Remember, technical skills alone don’t provide the outstanding customer experience. Exceptionalism comes from carefully listening to your clients—like a therapist.

3. Deliver the experiences your clients want.

Once you’ve got a good pulse on what your clients expect, you’ll uncover a roadmap that makes it possible for you to deliver exceptional experiences and go beyond expectations. It could be as simple as improving upon response time to client calls or emails. Does your firm have a policy on responding to clients within a certain number of hours? Maybe it’s time to remind staff of why being responsive is so important. Another issue may be that clients feel they wait too long in your office to meet with you. Perhaps you can address this with status notifications via text the day of client meetings. Flowers, edible deliveries, hand-written notes or cards are nice touches to help celebrate your clients’ special events, like opening a new location, winning an award in their industry or community, getting a big contract or celebrating personal events like birthdays or retirements. Make sure you always foster a commitment to continuous improvement, so you don’t become too complacent.

When clients experience exceptional service, they share it with their friends, neighbors and colleagues. And word spreads quickly. Make sure you’re delivering the best possible client experiences and your reputation will speak for itself. In the end, you’ll see return not only in revenue, but in your client satisfaction and loyalty.

You may not find a recipe for gooey chocolate chip cookies (although, here’s my favorite recipe), but you will find a recipe for success with these resources for small firms:

  • Small and Powerful webpage: Find tips on providing value-added services to small business clients, strategic planning, staffing and more.
  • Identify and Prioritize tool: Get to know your clients by listening to them and asking them the right questions to really understand their needs.
  • Small Firm Philosophy podcast series: Hear how small firm leaders across the country are successfully creating memorable experiences for both their clients and staff.
  • Business model framework: Help your clients or your organization define, deliver and capture value.

Additionally, in the wake of tax reform, there’s an opportunity for you to become an even greater trusted adviser to your clients without having to offer them cozy pajamas. With these tools, you’ll be guided through the latest changes so you can best advise your clients during the upcoming tax season.

Lisa Simpson, CPA, CGMA, Associate Director – Firm Services, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants 

Originally published by AICPA.org