You’ve probably heard about the importance of providing an amazing experience for your clients at every touchpoint with your firm. It’s logical that this will differentiate your firm from others, and result in clients who are engaged, loyal and responsive.
But where do you start in understanding where your firm lies on the spectrum of Client Experience (CX)? This article will walk you through key steps to understand where your firm is now, so you can create a plan to improve your client experience level in the months ahead.
Get Clear on the “Why”
Before you embark on any change, it is important to understand WHY you are doing it. What is the desired outcome? It's probably not enough to want to be nice to clients - there has to be a good business outcome for the firm or it may not be worth the time and effort to make any changes.
To set the vision in your mind, imagine for a moment what your day would feel like if the following things were true:
- Your staff have everything they need to do their job and can be productive all day.
- Clients send in key documents when you ask for them, with no chasing.
- Both staff and clients can find documents easily without having to hunt in various locations.
- Staff can see across all their clients, no matter who dealt with them last.
- And, your firm is not only retaining great clients, but those clients are also referring others to you.
The above scenario is achievable. There is so much tangible benefit for your practice that it makes a very good “why” - your staff will be more productive, your firm will make more money, and everyone’s stress levels will decrease.
The key is that it all hinges on the experience you offer your clients when working with your firm. If you make it easy, clients will respond quickly to your requests, and staff can get more done.
So, if we agree that the “why” is solid, how do you identify what needs to change? At this point you need to take a look at how well your current systems are working and identify any friction caused for clients and staff as a result of using them.
Evaluate Your Current Systems - 5 Questions to Ask
Question 1: Regarding the system(s) you ask clients to use when exchanging sensitive information and documents with your firm: Is it easy for them to use?
A key indicator that it is not easy is the amount of time you spend troubleshooting or helping clients to log in.
- Another key indicator is the number of clients who just boycott it altogether, and email you the documents you have requested, or worse, take a picture and text it to you.
Question 2: In looking back on the past year - how many of your clients actually met your deadlines?
- If a high percentage of your clients miss your deadlines or have to be chased repeatedly for documents, it’s a good bet that your systems are not easy for them to use.
Question 3: How many different options do clients have to communicate with your firm?
- There is an optimal level that allows choice but doesn’t go too far in the opposite direction. You don’t want to either have no choice at all or have far too many choices.
- An indicator that you may have an issue with your systems is that clients have TOO many ways to send information to you, which in turn leads to staff having to check multiple places to see if a client has sent a document.
- Too many options = confusion, frustration, and lost productivity.
Question 4: Has your firm ever had a scary cybersecurity moment?
- It's not a matter of “if” but rather “when” your firm will have a scary cybersecurity moment. The scammers and phishers are just getting too good.
- An indication that you might have an issue with security is if the firm relies heavily on email to communicate with clients. Clients just do not have the same focus on security as you do, and this opens them (and your firm) up to a huge amount of risk.
- Many firms have turned to secure portals to mitigate this risk, but a portal is only as good as the number of clients who will use it.
Question 5: Have you ever lost a good client and you don’t know why?
- Unfortunately, clients will just vote with their feet and leave if they are unhappy with the systems you ask them to use.
- Instead, if you create a great experience by choosing systems that are built with their needs in mind, it's much less likely they will leave.
Once you go through the questions above, you’ll get a clear picture of whether your firm has an issue with your client experience or not, and you can then focus on choosing solutions that will work for your clients and your staff.
Choose the Right Tools - for Clients and for Staff
It's tempting to fall into the seductive trap of choosing a system that “does it all.” The issue with this thinking is that usually with these systems there is one clear strength (i.e., firm productivity) and everything else is an afterthought. So, if you are truly seeking to give your clients the best possible Client Experience (CX 2.0) you’ll need to choose solutions designed for them, and use a different (expert) system to manage workflow.
Understand Your Client’s Typical Day
To select tools that work for clients, you need to understand their day. When they are at work, are they at their desk or are they out and about? If you are like most firms, it's a good bet that many of your clients are not working at a desk all day.
In a perfect world, they’d see your email requests come in and answer them immediately. But what really happens? They’re busy - they’re often out with just their phone in hand. They can’t respond to your requests on the go, unless you give them the tools to do so.
And when they are reading and responding to emails, are they going to prioritize their accountant over customers or coworkers? Probably not. Especially if your email involves a link to a portal they’ve already had a bad experience with. So, what happens? Your email slides down the dysfunctional to-do list that email has become - and then it's out of sight out of mind and you have to badger them.
They actually do WANT to answer your request though. A proof point: they send pictures of documents because the only tool they have in their hand is their phone.
Match Your Ask to What They Can Actually Do
If you need your client to securely send you a document, you basically have two choices:
- Ask by email and know that it’s going to take the client a while to get back to you. This is because it is so difficult for them to respond on the go - they have to step out of their day and go and find a scanner then send it via their computer into their portal (that you know many of your clients hate to use)
- Or give your client a secure tool that goes with them and becomes a seamless part of their day.
Client Experience 2.0 Means You Are a SEAMLESS Part of Their Day
To be an effective and efficient accounting professional, you should become a seamless and welcome part of their clients’ day. When you meet them where they are and allow them to use the tool at hand (their phone) to conduct all business securely and easily with you, clients respond quickly and engagement and loyalty to your firm goes through the roof. And the BEST PART is that you don’t have to change any of your accounting or tax or practice management software packages to provide this type of experience.
Your clients deserve Client Experience 2.0. And you deserve the benefits that you will receive from providing this experience.
To dig a little deeper into areas of strength in your firm and uncover specific hotspots in your firm’s Client Experience level, take this 2-minute Quiz. At the end you will receive your score along with free resources to help you capitalize on your strengths and address any hotspots.
If you would like to see how Liscio can help you delight your clients and help staff get more done in the process, please book a personalized demo here.