Service Measurement to Service Excellence: 3 Client Service Lessons for Accounting Firms in 2018

Last week, Eric Gregg (Founder and CEO of ClearlyRated) and Adelaide Ness (Executive Vice President of The Rainmaker Companies) hosted a webinar titled: “From Service Management to Service Excellence: Unlocking your Firm’s Growth Potential.”

Eric and Adelaide took turns peeling back the layers of a winning client service strategy for accounting firms – from internal culture to processes and measurement (and everything in between).

Below are three key takeaways from the webinar.

1. For accounting firms, client service is a business development tool.

It’s no secret that referrals fuel accounting firm growth. ClearlyRated’s 2018 Accounting Industry Benchmark Study finds that 70% of prospective accounting clients are influenced by referrals. What’s more, 84% of accounting clients say they would consider leaving their existing firm if they received a referral from their personal or professional networks!

But, as Adelaide demonstrates in the webinar, “referrability” doesn’t casually happen… referrability requires your firm to provide consistently remarkable client service – built on a foundation of strong relationships and trust.

“This is a people business. People buy with emotion and justify with logic. When they like you they buy from you. When they really like you, they stay with you year after year – and tell their networks about you.” 
– Adelaide Ness, Executive Vice President of The Rainmaker Companies

Adelaide went on to outline The Rainmaker Companies’ Five Star Service Model. In addition to building relationships and mastering the art of recovery, five star client service is underwritten by 3 core actions that drive referrability:

1. Understanding the order: take time to build client relationships and understand not just what they need, but also what they want from their relationship with you.

2. Delivering the order: take advantage of the opportunity to set, meet, and exceed client expectations.

3. Ascertaining satisfaction: ask clients what they like about working with your firm and where you can improve. (Hint – this is where NPS® comes in!)

2. Consistency is what makes a client service leader.

A distinctly memorable moment in the webinar involved Adelaide referencing some familiar consumer brands like Southwest Airlines, Google, Nordstrom, Zappos, and Apple. All are considered by their customers to be exceptional brands to work with – but Adelaide challenged the audience to think further about what these brands had in common…

The answer? Consistency. 

These brands have developed a common language that creates consistency across all aspects of product and service delivery – from support staff all the way up to the executive level. They’ve invested in training their people and building shared vernacular, processes, and expectations so that each and every team member knows what excellent, consistent service means and how to deliver on it.

Howard Schultz (former CEO of Starbucks), for example, shut down every Starbucks location in the country for three hours in 2008 to retrain Starbucks employees on Starbucks’ core values because he was unsatisfied with the level of service at one of the locations he visited.

What processes are in place to ensure consistently remarkable client service at your firm? How do you measure service quality? And what steps would you take to retrain your team after uncovering a service quality issue? If you are able to answer these questions – you’re well on your way to building a consistently remarkable client experience.

3. Asking for feedback is about more than uncovering issues, it’s about learning what you’re doing right.

It’s easy to forget that client feedback is a two-sided coin. For every issue that is uncovered when asking for feedback, you’ll likely find that many of your clients are exceptionally pleased and value aspects of your offering that you wouldn’t have otherwise expected.

That’s what happened when The Rainmaker Companies surveyed their own clients utilizing ClearlyRated’s NPS survey platform. According to Adelaide, the Rainmaker team was blown away by the amount of shout outs and testimonials they received from clients – not to mention the additional layers of insight into what’s really working well with their process.

Don’t let the lessons from your biggest fans fall on deaf ears. Thank them for their feedback, re-invest in the pieces of your delivery process that they love, and – while you’re at it – ask if they’d be willing to refer you to a friend or colleague.

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