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People will never forget how you made them feel

In part one of this two-part series, Dermot Hamblin takes a look at what customer experience is, and why it is so important in running a business.

16th Mar 2020
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Colour chart of customer experience rating

Customer experience is becoming an increasingly important factor within business, and to quote Mary Angelou: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” As we move into an era where customer relations is an essential element in running a business, this way of thinking becomes aligned with familiar sayings, such as 'compliance is dead', the 'trusted advisor', and 'not your average accountant'. 

As the adoption of technology increases in the leading 10% of firms, customer experience will become the next battlefield for accountancy businesses to differentiate themselves from other firms in that space.

What is customer experience?

To borrow the definitions from Nick Sinclair Chairman of TOA, customer experience is defined as “How customers perceive their interactions with your firm” and customer service is defined as “The help and advice provided to your clients who buy or use your services.”

Customer experience is being proactive and permeates across the whole of the business and customer journey.

We can all remember an experience that is memorable, and if you examine the story, it will come down to the manner in which we were looked after.

Exceptional service: An open wallet

For me, it’s the final night of a holiday in Rome. A restaurant was selected during the day in Piazza Navona. We arrived, were seated and then given some suggestions over the menu. There’s a very blunt phrase that many people use on the last night of the holiday, using the credit card to pay for the night out, as all the spending money has long since gone.

I have no idea what I ate, but I can remember the surroundings, the restaurant name, the waiter who looked after us, and the fact I had quickly accepted the fate that my wallet had been opened and the waiter was going to take whatever he decided.

And I was very happy with that outcome because we had been made to feel extra special.

Application in accounting

So how do accountancy businesses apply that rationale to their own service offerings? How many clients do you have, that will pay your bills promptly and without question?

The easy option would be to dive in with tech and demonstrate how you can enhance the client experience with tech. I will do this in part two, but let’s start with some good old-fashioned human input and common sense.

A wise and experienced American consultant turned up at an American hotel late one night and, as he checked in, the receptionist welcomed him back to the hotel. The consultant, Chuck Jr III, had not spoken to the receptionist. As he had pitched at this chain for a big CRM project within the last 12 months, Chuck Jr III asked how the young man knew he was returning. "Well Sir, last year the company was just about to sign a multi-million contract for a massive and convoluted CRM tool, that would not work. As a final check, they asked the staff if we could come up with a better idea. So, what happens, is that the bell boy, who picks your luggage out of the truck, asks you if you have stayed before. Then when he drops your luggage at the desk, he scratches his nose when I look him. We saved the company millions, lost that consultant a big commission cheque, but improved the experience of all of our clients."

Slow and steady

As with any project, do not rush to tech, and ask 'what is the business case that I am trying to solve?' Map it out on a whiteboard and then ask your team for their ideas. You cannot expect ideas like this to be implemented successfully if your team are not involved. You’ll also discover that they have much better ideas than the leaders of the business, mainly because they are at the frontline and dealing day in, day out with these issues.

What are simple ideas that are being implemented today by accountancy firms? I strongly suggest that you invest in a CRM tool to enable these, and additional ideas I discuss, to take place.

Lloyd Dowson, East Yorkshire, sent a birthday card, personally signed by the front office and relevant team members for years. They are heavily involved in the sponsorship of numerous client’s junior football, rugby and gymnastics teams. Whilst this started as a client retention approach, it does win new business because they are perceived to be a member of the local community.

Harland’s, Consett send thank you for any referrals that they receive. I received one out of the blue and it increased my perception of Glyn Davison and his team.

Susan Rahman of KWSR and co-Founder of onkho, in SW London makes extensive use of technology, which will be discussed in part two, but Susan’s impressive customer experience is derived from booking in check-in calls with her clients. This call is every 12 weeks and is not set around any compliance issues, but is a general call to ensure that everything is OK.

Small procedures like these are easy to implement but go a long way in improving your client interactions. Part two will cover how to use tech in the customer journey.

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