CPA firms of all shapes and sizes are taking a long look at their client service process. And it’s no wonder, considering that client service is THE differentiator among CPA firms and is the lynchpin in client loyalty.
CPA firms often rely on revenue numbers, realization and chargeable hours to determine how business is going. But by giving your clients a voice, you’ll learn what you can be doing better, how to sustain high performance, and how you can more effectively grow your firm’s top line.
Consider this: a study to quantify the impact of client loyalty on revenue by InfoQuest found that a “totally satisfied” customer contributes 2.6 time more revenue than a “somewhat satisfied” customer, and 14 times more revenue than a “somewhat dissatisfied” customer. If we assume that customers who rate themselves as “totally satisfied” are loyal, it’s clear that loyalty plays a significant role in how much revenue a client generates for your business. Not only that, improving the lifetime value of your client base by increasing client retention levels significantly impacts your firm’s ability to grow its top-line because you aren’t constantly replacing revenue from clients who are leaving the firm.
Not only that, totally satisfied clients will refer business to you and serve as a reference if you ask…making it easier to attract new relationships as well.
Beyond the revenue impact, though, is the fact that working with loyal clients who recognize the value of the relationship with your firm, seek your counsel, are fun to serve and take your advice create for a very fulfilling practice. They create interesting professional opportunities and an enjoyable atmosphere. Who wouldn’t want to practice public accounting in an environment like that?
Satisfaction vs Loyalty
Satisfaction and loyalty are related, but not the same. Satisfaction is often tied to a project or engagement. Loyalty is tied to the relationship. Both are important – you can’t have loyalty without satisfaction first. But loyalty helps to insulate the relationship from brief periods of dissatisfaction. If I’m a loyal client, I’ll allow you the opportunity to fix a satisfaction issue. I may even become more loyal if the issue is resolved quickly and to my liking. However, if I’m merely satisfied, and then become dissatisfied I’m more likely to look for an alternative service provider because there is nothing else tethering me to the firm.
So ask yourself, “what are the proactive measures we are taking as a firm to measure and improve client loyalty?” If the answer is “not much” or “I’m not sure” you may want to consider starting at the beginning by understanding what your clients value in a relationship, and how you’re doing delivering in those key areas.
How do You Know What Clients Value? Ask!
Coordinated efforts to improve client service can yield some of the greatest returns on investment of any growth activity. To be most effective, any effort related to improving client service should germinate from feedback from your best clients. Often when firms measure satisfaction, they focus on engagement satisfaction. How satisfied were they with the outcome? How did they enjoy the experience of working with your team? What could you do differently? How would they rate the deliverables? While important, these surveys don’t adequately measure the satisfaction with the relationship—which is what drives loyalty.
Consider a formalized program to learn the following from your clients:
- What attributes of service do they associate with your firm?
- What attributes of service are most important to them in hiring a CPA?
- How satisfied are they with your firm’s delivery of the attributes that are most important?
Understanding your clients’ perspective enables you to define the behaviors of client service that will enhance loyalty. You can then train everyone in the firm on the behaviors for consistent delivery. Clients will begin to see and feel the difference between your firm and others in the market—creating loyalty and also giving your clients a reason to rave about you to their peers.
So, how does your firm measure client loyalty? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
About the Author
Carrie has 20 years of experience helping CPA firms grow. From setting the right goals to improving individual business development skills to encouraging employee participation in business development and measuring results—Carrie works with firms throughout North America to hone their competitive edge. Carrie Steffen is a Shareholder and President at The Whetstone Group.