Even before the coronavirus outbreak swept through the United States in March of 2020, the Aronson LLC team was investing time and resources to map out a client survey initiative.

“Aronson has always had a firm commitment to client service, but we have relied on anecdotal feedback gathered by partners to determine how well we are delivering on that promise. At the start of the year, we set out to find a way to build quantitative evidence of our clients’ experience with the firm, and we wanted to use that feedback to identify opportunities to innovate and deliver greater value across our service lines and industry groups.” – Carrie Hankey, Director of Marketing and Business Development

I had the opportunity to sit down with Carrie Hankey, Aronson’s Director of Marketing and Business Development, to discuss their decision to begin surveying clients, how their client survey program has progressed with ClearlyRated’s Net Promoter® survey program, how they are leveraging client feedback in their day-to-day operations, and how they hope to expand this client intelligence initiative in the future.

About Aronson LLC (and their decision to launch a client survey during COVID-19)

Aronson LLC is a nationally ranked Top 100 assurance, tax, and consulting firm. Based in Rockville, Maryland, the Aronson team has organized firm growth around three pillars: delivering outstanding client service, ensuring opportunities for their team members, and building authentic relationships in the community.

Aronson and ClearlyRated partnered in 2020 (in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic) to field the firm’s first ever client satisfaction survey. Like all businesses, the Aronson team was looking for every opportunity to deliver value at a time when clients were facing massive uncertainty and new complexities that were challenging the bedrock of their business operations.

“We knew that we wanted to launch our client survey in 2020, even before the pandemic hit. But COVID really expedited the need. We wanted to understand what was happening in our core industries, and we knew that a survey would be able to give us deeper and more comprehensive intelligence than we could collect individually.” – Carrie Hankey, Director of Marketing and Business Development

Fielding their client survey during the pandemic has provided Aronson with unprecedented insight into their clients’ journeys. Beyond the perceptions that clients have about their experience working with and being supported by Aronson, Carrie and her team were able to measure the impact that the firm has been making with their efforts to provide outsized value during COVID-19. Their ClearlyRated client survey provided evidence about which of the additional resources, webinars, and consultative offerings were providing the most value as clients navigated through the first phase of economic disruption.

Operational Focus: The driving value of Aronson’s NPS initiative

One of the biggest priorities for Carrie and the Aronson team when fielding their first client survey was to keep the partner group heavily involved in the survey communications and outcomes. Creating a sense of inclusion around the client survey effort helped ensure that partners bought into the strategy, and allowed them visibility into the methodology and how that information would be used. With the support of Aronson’s Managing Partner, Larry Davis, Carrie was able to keep each partner closely tied to their respective clients’ feedback, maximizing their visibility into survey results and providing them with actionable information.

Additionally, the NPS data gathered from clients across the firm has provided a much-needed structure for assessing the health of relationships. The initial survey results have provided the Aronson team with a benchmark set of data to build from and allow partners to work into their own assessments.

“We knew going into this client survey that we’d be measuring NPS and drivers over time. That long-term vision has allowed us to create benchmarks from a firm-wide client experience perspective, and also from the partner perspective. These benchmarks allow our partners to see what they’re doing well and where they might need to work on client service, and they can choose to invest and improve as they are able.” – Carrie Hankey, Director of Marketing and Business Development

Unexpected benefits of the NPS survey program

As Carrie and I spoke, there were two things that she identified as unexpected (and outsized) benefits of moving through a client survey program.

1. Identifying at-risk revenue

As their NPS survey results came in, the Aronson team identified an at-risk account that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Due to a small internal disconnect, the stakeholders at this account hadn’t received some information they’d expected about an upcoming transition and were feeling dissatisfied as a result.

Thanks to the real-time feedback generated through ClearlyRated’s client survey program, Carrie was able to alert the partner in charge of that account, who quickly picked up the phone and worked with the client to clarify and resolve the issue.

“While the aggregated feedback from the NPS survey is valuable, the immediate feedback that’s generated when a client has a concern is immeasurable. I think, ultimately, we’re saving an account because of it.” – Carrie Hankey, Director of Marketing and Business Development

2. Spotlighting outstanding achievements in client service

In addition to uncovering (and quickly resolving) unforeseen client service issues, the Aronson team has seen an outsized impact from one of ClearlyRated’s flagship survey features: Shout Outs.

Clients who identify themselves as very satisfied are invited to recognize members of the Aronson team who they believe have gone above and beyond for them. What comes out of this recognition is a “Shout Out” – and each Shout Out that is collected within the survey dashboard can be pulled in aggregate or segmented in any way that client feedback is organized.

“When our Head of Talent, Kevin Gerrity, found out about the Shout Outs and testimonials generated by the client survey, he realized they would be ‘a gold mine’ for our People Team. We have since granted his team access to the survey dashboard so they can access the results, allowing them to take advantage of glowing client feedback to spotlight internal employees and increase employee engagement. Additionally, they are incorporating client Shout Outs into personnel files to use as another piece of quantitative evidence for tying performance back to client service. It’s a win-win.” – Carrie Hankey, Director of Marketing and Business Development

Building for the Future: Where Aronson plans to take their client survey practice in 2021

Carrie and the Aronson team have a robust vision for how to continue to operationalize client feedback in the day-to-day operations of their business. An immediate opportunity that Carrie is working to implement is the integration of the ClearlyRated survey program with Aronson’s CRM system.

“Being able to deliver real-time feedback within client records in our CRM will empower our partners with even more information in the environment where they spend the most time. We expect that, as more surveys are rolled out, that the ability for partners to track client experience trends over time directly from the CRM will add exponential value.”

After integrating their ClearlyRated client feedback into their CRM, the Aronson team will be exploring additional opportunities to survey across critical moments in the client experience. Beyond an annual survey to measure the status of client relationships, they will explore surveying at end of engagement.

Last, but certainly not least, Carrie plans to focus some of her team’s efforts towards leveraging client feedback in their marketing and business development strategy. In their first survey alone, Aronson gathered 87 new testimonials from clients who gave them a 9 or 10 on the Net Promoter scale. Those testimonials are available on Aronson’s profile page on ClearlyRated.com alongside their 4.9 out of 5 star client rating!

What’s more, Aronson LLC earned an exceptional Net Promoter Score of 86.6%. This is a huge feat when you consider the fact that anything above 70% is considered a world-class NPS, and it is an especially powerful number when you compare it to the industry average NPS of just 23%.

These proof points will be powerful resources for the Aronson team as they find new and innovative ways to tell the firm’s story of client service excellence.

Closing Thought: What Carrie wants you to know about launching a client survey

I asked Carrie to share one piece of advice that she would give to other accounting firms who are launching a client survey initiative. Here is what she had to say:

“Lean on ClearlyRated! They know how to leverage best practices to create a successful experience for stakeholders and clients alike. In addition, take the time to involve your client relationship partners. With their buy-in, the process will be smooth and they’ll be eager to help and receive the results!”

Thank you so much to Carrie and the entire Aronson team for entrusting us with your first-ever client survey! We can’t wait to see how you will harness the power of client feedback to build stronger relationships and fuel firm growth.

Interested in working with ClearlyRated to launch a client survey at your firm?

We’d love to explore the potential of a program just like this at your firm. Get in touch today!

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