Answer this question:
Would your clients call you if they had received information from another accountant that you have not provided or that seems to be at variance with advice that you have provided?
Or would they send you a “Dear John” letter?
Client loyalty requires investment on your part
Most accountants believe that their clients owe them loyalty; after all, you offer the best advice. Why would they not be loyal?
This is a myth. Client loyalty is a consequence of a business relationship that works for the client. The building and maintenance of client loyalty is a process that requires action on the part of a practitioner. It is not sufficient, in my opinion, to simply do a good job and hope for the best.
How do you measure client loyalty?
Tricky. You could ask clients for feedback, are they happy with the service they receive? Unfortunately, most of us are drawn to extremes when asked theses sorts of questions, its either “everything is fine” or Pandora’s Box flips open and years of spleen is dumped in your lap. It could also be seen as you fishing for compliments.
The most objective way to measure loyalty is to witness what happens when the proverbial hits the fan: either you make a mistake, or returning to the opening remark to this post, one of your competitors offers advice that had not occurred to you.
How do you maintain and strengthen client loyalty?
Certainly you can have heart to heart conversations with clients – as part of say an annual review – and that may help to clear up any lingering issues. You can also eye-ball clients and ask them to contact you if they have any problems with the service or advice they are receiving from your practice.
If you go down this route be sure to ask “open” questions that invite the client to be honest with you. Say “Do you have any issues regarding the services we have provided?” not “I assume you are happy with our work?”.
And most importantly: appoint someone to make periodic calls to the client to check out that all is well. A few “open” questions that help the client to clear the air will further the process.
Seek and you shall find…
Clients have two basic needs that advisers can help to satisfy: the fulfilment of their business and personal financial goals and sorting out problems. Some of these goals and issues you will be aware of, but what about those that you are not?
Seeking out these goals and problems should be a further key feature of your conversations with clients.
If you do get involved in tracking down these goals and problems, and then provide services that keep clients on track, you will go a long, long way towards your goal of building client loyalty.
Are you keeping vital details under your hat?
Whilst clients will generally be aware of their own aspirations many will not be aware of all the services you offer, and therefore, the issues that you could help them with. The old adage: its what you don’t know that you don’t know that catches you out.
This is when you can step in, and the way to do this is to actively campaign to cross-sell relevant services to all your clients.
Do not stop the clock when you have succeeded in completing accounts and tax returns
The most important rhetorical question you can ask as a committed practitioner and adviser is “what other services can I offer that would support this client?”. Ironically, the cross-sales process is the most productive way to increase your practice fee income, and as a bonus, support the ongoing process of building client loyalty.