Losing a client is never easy. But rather than taking it on the chin, practitioners have used exit interviews to flip client departures into a growth strategy.
Late this summer, AccountingWEB member Moonbeam vented their frustration at a client moving on. The client filled Moonbeam with dread every time they called. But despite feeling relieved that they wouldn’t have to deal with the client again, the overriding feeling was regret: “This was a good client for me earnings wise and I am gutted,” Moonbeam said.
AccountingWEB members such as Ireallyshouldknowthisbut consoled: “It’s always a kick to the ego when they walk vs you push 'em.”
Andy Partridge, meanwhile, felt that the loss of the fee shouldn't be a big issue because "no practitioner should feel dependent on a single client".
“It might be that you are smarting that your client has had enough of you before you had the chance to tell him you'd had enough of him,” he said. “We've all been there!”
When a situation like this happens, it can result in a lot of questioning and self-doubt. What did you do wrong that led to this departure? How can you prevent this from happening again?
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Practice Excellence Client Service award winner Sharon Pocock felt these same feelings when a handful of clients left. Curious to know why, Pocock held an informal exit interview with the clients.
“It came about for my personal piece of mind,” she told AccountingWEB. “In the same way I ask people how they heard of us, it's out of curiosity.”
These impromptu interviews proved useful for Pocock, where the feedback has helped inform her continuous improvement agenda.
A client leaving is a fact of life, but Pocock took a proactive stance to ensure the firm not only learns from the episode but grows. “Is it good enough to just be okay, or should we be doing something extraordinary?”
Since running the exit interviews Pocock has refined her service offering by overhauling her on-boarding strategy and client communication. In one example, Pocock received a professional clearance letter from a longstanding client. Of course, she was surprised, but when she rang him the client explained that he was going through a period of growth and felt the firm did not give him the right amount of support.
“What was interesting was the time we were meant to meet previously and go through a strategy session he cancelled the meeting. He said he didn't need it and to just send the report,” Pocock said.
“I took it that he was fine and didn't need our support at that time, but actually, I should have been more proactive and stepped in and said: 'Right, how are you doing?'”
As a result of these issues being flagged, Pocock drafted in a client champion to ensure client communication runs as smoothly as her clients expect.
The information from the exit interviews plays a role in the firm’s weekly planning meeting. Along with looking at new clients, the planning sessions is a place to review who is leaving and the reasons why.
“It doesn't matter how long you've been in business. If someone leaves you can't help but take it personally,” Pocock said. “If the team has heard someone has left and they don't know why then, for morale, that needs to be explained and talked about and it is not the end of the world.”
But the strategy meetings are far from just reviewing exiting clients; they are also about celebrating the week’s success and areas for improvement. When a client leaves it is important to remind yourself of your extraordinary client care.
“Just for the rest of the team it is good to know, whoever it is who's telling the good news, that's brilliant for them and their morale but also for the rest of team to hear it too,” she said.
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About Richard Hattersley
Richard is AccountingWEB's practice correspondent. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.