The art of customer experience: Client engagement

Close the deal
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Trent McLaren concludes his two-part series exploring the art of customer experience by focussing on the most important part of the process: client engagement.  

In the previous article, we discussed how the ambience and atmosphere of your office can create a hospitable customer experience.

However, you can have the best environment - fresh coffee, biscuits or cakes, or a comfy couch area - but without that sweet human element, that smile and warm welcome, everything else goes to waste.

That’s why the most important part of this whole process is the way we communicate with our clients. If you can’t make your client feel secure and happy, then by all means, please review and address this quickly.

Client communication process

Firstly, remove the barriers: encourage your staff member to shake your client's hand, get their name and make them feel comfortable upon their arrival. 

So your client has walked in, they’ve had a warm welcome at reception, they’re sitting with their large soy caramel latte, they feel warm, they’ve had a nibble on something, and they’re now ready to step into your office or meeting space. At this point, as an accountant, you're providing solutions to your client's problems. You start by asking questions about their business. You explain the values of your firm, why you exist, the type of clients you specialise in and you begin to dive into what problems your client may have. In your head, you start to formulate what you can do for them.

Some accountants prefer to take notes on notepad or paper. Other’s may bring out the iPad and digitise the meeting to save double handling. From here you piece together what you can do for them and start talking through the next steps.

Client engagement and closing the deal

Personally, I want to close the deal today and get this work into production with my team. I don’t want to write up and edit an engagement letter in Word, print it, sign it, scan it and then email it to my client. And then I have to create and send a proposal also in Word. This takes time and I want to close the customer today whilst they are in the office.

There are systems in the market today that allow you to draft the proposal, bring across the engagement letter with client info, create and capture a digital signature and then publish back to your accounting system. This means I can create all of this on my iPad with the client and present it to them. And then, ask if they have any questions about the engagement, if they are they happy to proceed and if so, sign the engagement today and get started. If they do have questions you can review, and edit all on the spot.

From here we can email this across to the client. Accept the proposal and deploy the work. No word editing, printing, scanning or faxing: it's digital engagements on the spot with the client. Cut that lead time down and then let’s push this work into production.

This engagement method tells your customer that you’re on board with technology, and you are all about making things easier and scaling through the use of the right technology. And this in itself helps promote the brand that you are trying to up hold in your marketplace. If you’re a firm trying to create a true cloud firm model, then aesthetics like iPads instead of notepads can go a long way in your clients’ perception.

Measuring client satisfaction

The reality is that this approach to the customer experience can be used in all facets of your business. Simply put yourself in the client’s shoes and reflect. Is this something I would be happy about? How would I rank this experience out of 10? If you would rank it as a nine or 10, then you’re doing a good job. But be sure to get your staff members feedback and even your clients’ feedback.

Using the Net Promoter Score metric, a seven or an eight is okay, while six or worse needs a review to understand how you missed the mark.

Every client has different expectations so it’s near impossible to impress everyone. But if nine out of 10 times your customer has a "wow" experience then you’ll likely expect those clients to go on to be a customer.

If you start to measure customer experience, then you are one step further to becoming a customer-centric firm focused on the outcomes and experiences of your client. 

About Trent McLaren

Trent McLaren

I exist to help small business owners, bookkeepers and accountants transform into new business models that have been created by the introduction of cloud technology applications. I'm a passionate international public speaker guaranteed to give you an inspirational realistic approach to business in today's anytime, anywhere, anyhow environment. My role at Practice Ignition has allowed me to travel the world speaking about the latest trends, technologies and approaches business are taking to re-invent themselves and thrive in the digital age.

I believe that in order to achieve your goals, you must be a leader and a believer. Your peers need to feel part of something real and exciting in order to succeed. Turning up to work is just not enough.

I believe in creating a positive environment that stimulates and motivates people. An environment that allows people to grow, develop and most importantly enjoy their work.

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09th Sep 2017 12:21

Trent whilst I enjoyed your article. There is one part I do morally not like. I won't name the pricing providers but I really disapprove of some them .

I always let my client take the letter of engagement away with them even if they have already said yes. I absolutely hate when someone asks me to sign something in front of them, especially on a detail document like a letter of engagement .

You.cannot read any document in detail in that pressure . I have never lost decent clients by doing this, it has filtered out clients who will be annoying and trying to get work done for nothing .

It is not right to force someone to sign something without giving them the opportunity to think . If they trust you without pressure they will come back.

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09th Sep 2017 14:14

I like the article too. I whole heartedly agree with Sarah about being forced to sign engagement letters or similar documents electronically. It may be quick but it is a little forceful.

I like to close the deal on the day. I see no point in getting a client to sign an engagement letter and then immediately cancel when they get back home or to the office. I hate this when I'm doing business.

I'm a one-man company that works from home. I try to get my client's name and address before the meeting with the intention of having printed and edited in Word, from my firm's templates, an engagement letter. Most of my services are are standard services.

I think that it is also very important that the person that signs and prepares the engagement letter on behalf of the company fully understand the ramifications of the letter and any related terms and conditions. They should not be simply entering words to fit boxes unless they understand what they are doing. My previous firm always insisted that I partner signed the document in ink having had the opportunity to read what was being contractually agreed. Surely this is more important than fancy iPads on the day.

I do ask the client to sign the engagement letter on the day though I and them both have a paper copy. I asked for the signature for practical reasons to avoid the time and cost of posting engagement letters after the meeting back and forth and to ensure that I actually get a signed copy of my file and don't waste time chasing up after the meeting. I am always open with my clients and say that they can cancel at any stage and the reason why I have mentioned above why I get a signature on the day. I make it quite clear to the client. No one is being forced 'to sign up'.

To me a lot is written recently about the cloud. It is a method of operation and a service it is not a be all and end all.

I worked in a City Centre firm, Hentons in Leeds, where it was all about being modern, using the latest mobile computer (not a laptop but some sort of round computer) to give a presentation to clients. The actual working environment was not so pretty, with paper and boxes of records everywhere. The trouble was that the computer had a strange keyboard and mouse and was very difficult to use. It was nothing like the laptop that I had on my desk and used everyday. As a result of trying to impress the clients I gave a poor presentation and could not easily move around documents on the modern IT.

I do not think that I have met a client that objects to anybody taking notes in a way that is most appropriate to them. I see my clients taking notes on paper and on computers (some people are excellent typists) and so long as they can take the notes down efficiently and accurately than I do not see the problem.

I wholeheartedly agree with using modern technology where it is practical and saves time and achieves useful objectives. We are all individuals and even in modern firms we do not have to be forced in to straight jackets.

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10th Sep 2017 08:48

Also agree with Sarah and Paul - I always send engagement letters with t&c's after successful new client meetings and this has never been an issue - I to do not like being asked to sign up in a first meeting to anything, so I would not ask or expect my new clients to do that while I am in the same room as them as it never gives them a chance to really read the very important document!

Recently I've been telling my clients not to get so caught up with 'hype' and I feel pricing software falls into the category, I admit I was impressed by the idea and thought at first, yes I need that to. However listening to firms real experiences who have lost clients by using these tick a box platforms, helped me realise that it's not something I need to be swept up in right at the moment (or perhaps ever especially where I have a current process that works, that allows me to personalise my quotes as I see fit) and was a good reminder of the advice I give to clients about not just getting something, because everyone appears to be getting it to!

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10th Sep 2017 10:22

Hi guys. Interesting article and I wholeheartedly agree with not pressurising the client and having to sign up there and then on the spot.

However being someone that embraces cloud software where it can increase efficiencies I do use digital signature software through Adobe. I would never go back to a manual signature but this is beside the point.

I have spent hours upon hours looking into some of the commercial pricing programs out there and decided to cut a long story short they weren't for me.

However I have fully embraced the philosophy behind this and have actually created my own system to suit our firm.

I have a saved workbook in Excel which is made to look very pretty and professional and have one for a sole trader and one for a company.

I go through a few tabs which asks some basic questions on their turnover, payroll the bookkeeping etc and based on this it arrives at a summary of the services and the pricing.

I have to say this is going down very well and has actually increased my margins because it makes the pricing far more transparent.

If anyone wants to know more about this feel free to PM me.

Steve

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