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.
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.
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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
Winner - AccountantDaily Thought Leader Of The Year for 2017
I lead a team of spirited people looking to make a difference in the accounting industry as we know it. Elimination of debtors, automated invoicing and the thought of never having to touch your firm's billing again is a reality we deliver to accounting firms all over the world.
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.
I am the head of accounting at Practice Ignition, a Sydney based start-up born out of an accounting firm, Interactive Accounting. We eliminate debtors and automate your invoicing through our digital proposal and engagement letter builder solution. We service 1000's of accounting firms around the world including the United Kingdom.
In prior roles I have extensive history with Intuit QuickBooks, Xero, eWAY (online payments) as well as the retail sectors.