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Customer evaluation indicator | AccountingWEB | Client feedback fuels excellence in accounting firms
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Client feedback fuels excellence in accounting firms

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Client satisfaction is the cornerstone of a successful firm, with the leading pack proving that the secret to excellence lies in actively acting on feedback.

20th May 2024
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Every year Accounting Excellence entrants talk at length about how they’re building relationships with clients through regular meetings and phone conversations. It’s one thing to talk about it and assume your client service is best in class and it’s another thing to actually ask clients what they really think. 

That’s where the true success lies. As those in the profession know all too well: what gets measured, gets managed.  

It’s all about the feedback loop

Over recent years, the adoption levels of accounting firms using enhanced feedback mechanisms has grown in popularity amongst the most high-performing, as client feedback surveys have just become part of the foundation of Accounting Excellence entrants’ ability to deliver client service at consistently high levels.

All of the six finalists in the 2023 client service small firm category completed at least a net-promoter score (NPS), with the outliers branching off into surveys, client questionnaires and one-to-one interviews. 

Client surveys became even more stitched into the fabric of those in the mid-tier to large category for client service. All but one of the finalists went beyond just relying on NPS and added pulse surveys, client interviews and client surveys as a prominent feature in refining their client satisfaction.

Going beyond NPS

A common trait of Accounting Excellence finalists is their drive for continuous improvement - and this characteristic is apparent with this feedback loop. 

For example, Assure, a finalist in the 2023 small firm client service category, has evolved their client feedback method from online surveys to engaging an independent client listening specialist. They have managed to gather more in-depth feedback from clients via these one-to-one interviews and as a plus, the process demonstrates to clients that they are listening. 

Makesworth Accountants, the winner of the 2023 small firm category, has also taken the next step with its client surveys by establishing a client satisfaction officer role. It is this person’s job to proactively seek out and address client feedback and concerns, meaning the firm can make client questionnaires part of its business as usual admin, rather than waiting for the next rainy lunch break or once self assessment season is out of the way. 

Not mainstream yet!

But despite client surveys becoming a differentiator for high-performing firms in their quest for continuous improvement, it’s far from cut through into the mainstream. 

2023 New Firm of the Year winner, Karen Kennedy from Kennedy Accountancy (who recently appeared on a recent epiaode of the No Accounting for Taste podcast – listen below), remarked that despite pouring efforts into asking clients for their feedback - and more importantly if they’re happy - some were still cagey about responding because they aren’t used to being asked. 

“We have been sending out regular surveys asking for feedback, and uptake is improving with each round," she said. "Clients are realising that if they ask for something, we will provide it.

“Once I start actioning any feedback, it gains trust and clients will be more willing to offer feedback.”

And there’s the rub - it’s all well and good asking for feedback, but where the real magic happens is through acting on it.

Acting on client feedback

Bishop Fleming, a finalist in the 2023 mid-tier to large client service category, regularly undertakes surveys which generates a wealth of information.  

Being a larger firm, the finalist is able to put this data into action, through the use of more resources to survey clients and paint a more detailed picture of their thoughts. It measures client care through an array of routes from an annual client service survey to a client service survey by all staff and a specialist listening exercises for specific service lines.

In addition, it also conducts mystery shopping exercises. So there is a lot of data collected.

The firm has become more agile in using client feedback to make marginal gains. This has led to a starting a tailored customer journey mapping workshop to iterative improvements to service lines through tailored listening exercises. 

Single point of contact

Mid-tier to large finalist Old Mill discovered through client surveys an appreciation for its communication options, but also the need for a single point of contact. As a result, the South West firm has introduced a dedicated client handler. This new role means it is able to adopt a more personalised approach and better understand its clients’ unique requirements.

These two examples illustrate how mid-tier to large firms are able to act on client feedback through introducing new roles and becoming more agile in continuously improving their client service. While smaller firms often lack the resources to act on client feedback with the same scale as their larger cohorts, last year’s finalists shared how client feedback has helped them to make simple changes to their workflows and processes. 

This could be as simple as a firm installing an office phone line after clients requested another option to ask a general question without the need to contact an individual team member. 

Or, as small firm finalist Assure discovered, feedback could reveal whether clients are aware - or not, in this case - of the breadth of services offered. Knowing that clients were going to other providers for services they already offer, Assure introduced a key account management approach and modified its marketing to make sure clients were fully aware of its one-stop shop service. 

Conclusion

Firms take great pride in their client care. But it’s one thing believing your client care is working and it’s another knowing.

As last year’s Accounting Excellence finalists show, it’s only through measuring the success of their client service through asking clients that firms can address improvements and fully embed this ethos.

Ultimately, when it comes to client service, what gets measured, really gets managed.

The 2024 Accounting Excellence Awards are now open for entries. If your client service is best in class, enter the awards and you never know, you could be lifting a trophy. 

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