Happy New Year! As we welcome 2021, it’s worth reflecting on some of the things that made our lives a bit easier in 2020 and understand where current trends are heading.
For example: can you imagine working without Zoom, shopping without an online option, or watching TV without a large list of binge-worthy shows? Additionally, you might choose where to shop based on whether they have an easy-to-use app or whether home delivery is an option. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we all appreciate a new level of convenience and we are choosing where to spend our money based on how seamlessly each supplier can fit into our lives.
With this in mind, why not make 2021 the year you make it really easy for your clients to work with your firm?
If you’re like most accountants, 2020 kept you busy navigating PPP and SBA loans, managing an endless series of deadlines, and otherwise helping clients keep their heads above water. You produced results for your clients. But if you look back on how you got there, you’ll no doubt recall some choppy waters. But If you make it easy for your clients to respond to your requests, they will do so quickly. If you put a lot of barriers in their way, they will delay sending you what you need, and you will have to chase them for documents. It's all about the experience you give your clients.
Why your client experience matters - clients need ease
Consider online banking. Banks have made it easier to work with their app than in person. Or consider ordering dinner. With just a few clicks, you can choose and order dinner from an array of local restaurants, and it's delivered to your door. This is Client Experience 2.0™ (“CX2.0”) and it delivers new levels of convenience that clients have come to expect.
Now take a moment to envision what your firm would look like if you offered your clients CX2.0. For many extraordinarily profitable companies, delivering an experience that clients rave about is the most effective form of marketing. For example, have you ever seen a Zoom commercial? Or a Tesla ad? These highly visible success stories don’t advertise much because their customers do the talking. The same rings true for accountants. Most firms cite customer referrals as their number one source of growth. For this reason, prioritizing customer experience isn’t a vanity project — it’s about harnessing the power of the most efficient growth engine a company can have.
So how do you make 2021 the “Year of the Client” for your firm? Where do you start? Here are a few practical steps that will help:
Start with your vision for the firm
It’s helpful to start by imagining how you’d like clients to interact with your firm, and to compare that to the current experience you offer them. As example, an excellent goal might be to offer clients a top-notch mobile app so that every touchpoint with your firm is seamless and easy. The app allows them to go about their day without your requests being disruptive. They can quickly see what you need and respond on the go using their mobile phones. To fit seamlessly into their lives, every touchpoint with your firm should be designed with the client experience in mind. Mobile and modern will be the main requirements.
Compare to your current client experience
Now compare that to how your clients are interacting with your firm today. Are clients texting you? Or pinging you on social media? Do they balk at using your portal? How many times do they have to be asked to send a vital document? Is client communication scattered across email boxes? Or is it organized in a way that allows your firm to collaborate and respond? All these circumstances are hotspots that lead to extremely poor experiences for clients and for staff.
Share your vision with your team
Once you have clarity around your goals and have assessed your current hotspots, you’ll want to get your team on board with the need for change.
Some staff can be a little slow to embrace change. Let’s examine the common objections firms make to changing how to work with clients when they first hear about CX 2.0:
- “My clients won’t use it.”
- Avoid this pitfall by thinking about your favorite brands and apps. CX 2.0 technology complements the great service firms offer without taking anything away. Just ask your clients how they deposit their checks. Chances are they use a banking app on their phone to snap photos of both sides of the checks and then send them to their banks. That’s CX 2.0 in action. Seamless, delightful and convenient.
- Remember that 2020 changed everything. How many restaurants, retailers, and other services are you engaging with that don’t provide a great online experience?
- “My staff won’t use it.”
- Ask everyone what kind of phone they use. Note the infrequency of BlackBerry and flip phones. Remember when people swore that they would never use a phone without physical keys?
- Chances are your employees use a lot of apps already in their personal lives. Ask them what their favorites are and to explain why they like them. Do the words easy, convenient, well-designed, saves time appear over and over? Ask them to imagine “What would happen for our clients, in our firm, if we could make them feel that way about us?” Get them to think about the experience for both clients and the firm.
- “We already have too much technology.”
- If you have too much software, it is because you have the wrong technology. Most firms end up with a patchwork of software because they add it one piece at a time -- file sharing, then e-signatures, then a texting solution, then email encryption, etc. Too many disparate systems create complexity for the firm and the client.
- Replacing a patchwork of texting, emailing, file sharing, portals and electronic signature solutions with an all-in-one Client Experience 2.0 solution simplifies the experience for everyone.
- If your technology looks and feels out-of-date, chances are that it is. Clients expect modern and delightful, not dated and clunky.
Lay out your plans for a brilliant 2021
When you’re ready to upgrade your client experience, talk to people who have made the move before. Here’s what one client has to say about his firm’s move to CX 2.0 using Liscio:
“The word I keep thinking of is 'lifesaver.’ With the pandemic, if we were to use our old system, what we had, I just can’t even imagine. There were so many people saying ‘I can’t access it’ or ‘I don’t know how to upload’ or ‘It’s so confusing.’ Liscio is a lot more user friendly for the clients.”
-Wayne Rivers, Owner, Wayne Rivers, CPA
At Liscio, we’ve helped Wayne and thousands of accountants like him tailor a plan to meet their needs and timelines. We always recommend starting with your goals and working backward with a pace and cadence that meets your needs without stretching or straining the staff. Here’s a sample plan:
Today: Start with the end in mind. Just as you would plan a family vacation, begin with the destination in mind. Spend time imagining what working with your clients would feel like if all client communications were handled in a streamlined way. No more emails back and forth. Clients can find documents on their own. No more having to cajole them into using your portal or chasing them for documents. No more text messages.
Instead, clients communicate with your firm using a delightful mobile app. Your staff sees all their communications come in separated by client and on an actionable dashboard. Both you and your clients can view and track tasks, to-do’s, sensitive documents, e-signatures, and so forth. If one staff person is out of the office, others can pick up where they left off. This makes your client truly feel like it has a team supporting them. And best of all, your staff can move much faster because clients respond quickly to firm requests.
Week 1: Talk to your staff.
Hold meetings with your staff. Ask them what takes up their time and what processes frustrate your clients. Are clients missing emails and reminders? Are clients unable to find the information they need? Are clients sending sensitive information and .jpeg pictures over email and text?
Once you have that information, ask them to imagine how they would feel if those frustrations went away. More importantly, ask what would they do with the freed-up extra time? Would they spend more time doing valuable client advisory work? Would they work on learning new skills to rise in the firm? Set the stage and open communication channels with staff so they feel heard and can become excited about the solution.
Week 2: Get the ball rolling.
Liscio is dedicated to helping accountants improve their client experience. Lean on our expertise to create a tailored plan that meets your goals with minimal disruption to your workday. You may be surprised at how much smaller a lift this is than other projects such as setting up a CRM or practice management solution.
Week 3 or 4: Training and Client Invitations
- Designate a champion to work with the Liscio team. Your designated champion will coordinate training times and ensure the agenda meets the needs of the staff.
- The champion will provide feedback and schedule additional training sessions, as desired.
- Announce the upcoming benefits to your clients. The key here is to emphasize what’s in it for them and to give them time to embrace the change. Banks acted similarly when they rolled out their online services.
Here’s another client quote regarding its implementation of Liscio:
“The customer support team at Liscio has always been exceptional. They were with me every step of the way from the start - not only with technical questions I had, but also helped with getting our clients on board. They continue to this day to provide great service - even with the smallest type of question.”
-Jackie Keable, Client Relations, June CPA
Great client service is a hallmark of every great firm, every year. In 2021, why not celebrate the leap to Client Experience 2.0™ by making it officially the Year of the Client in your firm?
Your clients will be delighted by your continued commitment to making it easier to work with you wherever and however they want. Your staff will be delighted that clients are organized, send documents on time, and can self-service. The Year of the Client will add delight in every step, for both clients and staff alike.