Your clients drive your business model. This is why, in these tough times, it’s so important to connect with them and show them you care.
Your clients have likely felt a sense of panic over the public health situation, the economy, their own customer base, and their employees. They may be facing a tension between generating sales during a time of extreme economic hardship and respecting threats to life and livelihood.
Now more than ever, they need guidance and support to navigate those changes. Is your firm that trusted resource?
To ensure you are, here are six ways to increase your connection with clients.
1. Embrace video
If your firm hasn’t fully embraced a shift to video conferencing, now is the time. With video, the entire feel of a client meeting changes. Participants can see and be seen. It removes a sense of distance in a way that a phone call just doesn’t.
Our team at Boomer Consulting has been fully remote for several years now. We’ve seen first hand just how video translates into closer relationships – even between team members and clients who haven’t met in person. When paths finally do cross, it doesn’t feel as though you’re meeting a stranger. You recognize one another.
In these times of social distancing, video conferencing is the next best thing to working together in person.
2. Really listen
A true trusted advisor isn’t just available when business is doing well. If you want your clients to trust and respect you, now is the time to earn it. Be empathetic and really listen to their questions and concerns.
In times of change and pressure, it takes real effort to take the time to listen to others without interrupting or breaking in, judging what the person is saying, or thinking about what you’re going to say while the client is still talking. Luckily, active listening is a learned skill, so practice using these steps adapted from the Financial Planning Association:
- Give your undivided attention. Don’t multitask while talking to your clients. If you’re thinking about your next meeting or checking email, you’re not listening well.
- Learn non-verbal cues. A substantial portion of communication is non-verbal, so look for verbal cues from your clients and consider the ones you’re sending. This is especially important during a video conference. Make eye contact and ensure your facial expressions are aligned with your message. Considering your own non-verbal cues will make it easier for clients to share their concerns with you. Learning to read their non-verbal communication, such as fidgeting and avoiding eye contact, can help you interpret their emotions and respond appropriately.
- Ask the right questions. Before connecting with your client, it’s a good idea to create an outline for the conversation and consider questions you want to ask. But don’t write a script to read. Interrogating your clients with a list of questions won’t facilitate dialog. Use your outline as a guide, but let the client guide the conversation to show that you are open and caring. Before asking a question, think about how it will help you serve your client better.
- Make a connection. Some client concerns might seem small to you, but they’re not to them. Don’t skim over pain points or be judgmental. Try to understand their fears and frustrations by putting yourself in their place.
- Follow up. If your conversation requires a follow-up, make sure you call or email in a timely fashion. This lets your client know you didn’t forget about them, even if you don’t have an answer for them right away. Following up lets your clients know you care about their problems and are reliable.
3. Be proactive
Don’t wait for your clients to reach out to you. Think about what they’re going through now and reach out to them.
Remember, in our current situation, the situation they were facing a few weeks ago may be completely different from the situation they’re in today. Respond to what’s happening now – not where they were in the past.
4. Prioritize simplicity and clarity
The accounting profession is loaded with terminology and jargon that makes it difficult to convey a clear message to clients. Keep in mind, one of the main reasons your clients sought out your services is that they don’t have an in-depth knowledge of accounting, taxes, etc. Using language they don’t understand serves no purpose other than to confuse them and push them further away.
Use language that is plain and simple. Above all, strive to ensure your clients walk away from your conversation feeling like they have a clear plan.
5. Set an example for your team
For leaders in firms, setting an example for closer client connections is crucial because your team will follow where you lead. When everyone on your team knows how to create an exceptional client experience, you’ll increase long-term loyalty with your clients and create more opportunities for your firm.
By focusing on cultivating client connections during tough times, you’ll build sustainable relationships instead of just doing the work and moving on. These relationships are a strong foundation that will help you grow your firm to new levels.
About the Author
Sandra Wiley, President of Boomer Consulting, Inc., has been lauded for her industry expertise in human resources and training. She is often called the “go-to person” for solutions to the profession’s staffing crisis, citing her wise advice on hiring – and keeping – employees for the rest of their careers.