How client service triggers rapid growthby
At last year’s Accounting Excellence awards, Makesworth Accountants proved that excellence in client service and rapid growth are not mutually exclusive.
Makesworth’s double win at the 2021 Accounting Excellence Awards – picking up the client service firm of the year and the fast-track firm of the year - can be traced back to the firm’s guiding principle: to help their clients grow and prosper.
This ethos drives the firm’s attentive client services and as a result of this, led to the firm growing through expanding services.
Growth and service entwined
For Makesworth founder, Sanjay Sah, the two disciplines of client service and growth are intrinsically intertwined.
“Client service and growth can never be mutually exclusive,” he said. “When we improve our client service and deliver the best of what the client is looking for, we get good reviews and ratings from our clients, which results in more leads. And when we convert, that helps us to grow as a practice.”
Sah explained that as the firm grows, it reinvests in better client service through training and new technology, which fuels more growth... and repeat.
Grow with their clients
So as client businesses grow, so does the support and the fees. In the year before its Accounting Excellence double win, Makesworth saw fee income increase by 20%.
“We always believe in the potential of each of our clients and to support their growth. So when they grow the business with our support, they need more service from us,” said Sah. “So instead of providing just compliance work, which is very competitive, we can provide more advisory and growth related service.”
The additional services Sah and his team are able to provide include cashflow forecasts, management accounts and support seeking research and development grants. Along with the other advisory services, Makesworth also has two full-time web developers and digital marketers to help clients to grow their businesses in other ways.
Client relationships are made even more sticky by carving out a niche as a one-stop shop for all their business needs. Alongside Sah’s other practice in the Makesworth stable that provides audit services, he credits the firm’s extensive partnerships for its expanding service capabilities.
These include Croner-i’s VIP tax team, an insolvency practitioner and multiple lending platforms such as Capitalise. “We can't can't have all the expertise in-house so we use external providers,” he said. “We're still looking and open to have more partnerships in future to support our business, and also to our clients.”
Further proving the correlation between excellent client service and growth, Makesworth recently saw its client numbers increase by 24%.
Sah puts the high client retention numbers down to the firm’s 100% employee retention since he started the firm over seven years ago. This means “clients are guaranteed continuity in their dealings with us”, he says.
He’s further strengthened his qualified accountants’ knowledge and experience by investing in training and development. In addition to weekly and monthly team meetings to discuss client issues, client relationship managers have to complete mandatory monthly training. Employees also have to complete a minimum of 42 hours of training provided by an external provider.
The firm is then able to leverage client satisfaction through referral commissions. If an existing client refers five clients in a year, they get three accounting services.
Overcoming client service capacity crunch
There is the risk though that as the practice grows, the client service that attracted clients in the first place gets spread too thinly.
Makesworth’s first step to avoid this trap is to appoint a dedicated relationship manager to every new client when they join the firm. Each qualified accountant looks after a portfolio of between 70 to 80 clients.
Clients can contact them anytime during office hours. In addition, the client relationship manager will have a monthly check-in with clients which strengthens the relationship and maintains the dialogue throughout the year.
Then, to keep the client service running smoothly as the practice grows, Sah created a dedicated client satisfaction officer role.
As part of their daily duties, the client satisfaction officer gathers feedback from clients and asks if they’re having any issues with their client relationship manager. This helps Sah and his team to resolve any issues and continuously improve their client service.
The final tool in the client service arsenal is having a Makesworth office in India. This back-end support team handles the compliance work that allows the Harrow-based staff to focus on advisory work and delivering better client service.
The approach must be working. The firm has a client retention rate at 95%, which has remained unchanged since its inception, and 97% of their clients would recommend the firm.
This is further proof, for Sah, that growth and client service are co-dependent: "When we grow and we become bigger in terms of turnover and resources, we reinvest in better client service by having a better team and technology. That's helped us to grow and provide better client service.”