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Client relationships

How to develop a client-centric approach in your firm

In 2017, research by Deloitte found that companies specifically focused on their clients were 60 percent more profitable than those who didn’t. As digital transformations improve and disrupt industries, an old-fashioned human focus continues to be a critical success driver for small and large companies alike. PwC found that 82 percent of U.S. consumers and 74 percent of non-U.S. consumers crave more human interaction from companies.

With the demand for an authentic, more client-centric approach growing in importance, accounting professionals have an opportunity to stand out by providing amazing experiences and added value for their clients. In this article, I’ll discuss how you can improve your focus on clients and increase their average lifetime value for your firm.

Looking at examples of client-centric examples

In 2015, McDonald’s centralized and improved its digital marketing and social listening strategies to ensure it could discover and respond to customer feedback and company mentions online. By incorporating social listening, they were able to identify their customer’s favorite menu items and eventually introduced their “all-day breakfast,” resulting in higher growth than the company’s previous 14 quarters.

Since they burst into the world of e-commerce in 1999, Zappos has been synonymous with excellent customer service. Alex Genov, head of customer research for Zappos, stated that the company goes to great lengths to view their customers as people, rather than “users” or “shoppers.” They also take steps to build a structure and culture for their company that empowers teams to think people first, rather than solution first. Interestingly, they’ve adopted a hiring strategy that filters candidates based on their level of happiness, ensuring their customers always have a positive experience.

Create a people-focused culture within your firm

Building a people-focused firm starts with those nearest to you, specifically your team. While data is a recurring theme in client-centricity, it’s imperative to begin with a unified perspective of your clients and ensure it’s adopted throughout your firm. In the end, your clients will choose a firm based on your people, not your data. Here are some ways to inspire a client focus in your firm:

  • Ensure there is consistent and open communication between your staff and clients.
  • Unite your staff around your firm’s vision and show them how it will benefit them.
  • Support your team with updated technology and defined processes.

Adopt a data-driven holistic view of your clients

Mapping out your client’s journey, beginning with the time before they contact you to your ongoing relationship, will help you discover opportunities for better understanding your clients, which comes from gathering meaningful data throughout their journey. You may already have collected a significant amount of data during meetings, calls, and emails; by scouring this data for recurring problems and challenges, you’ll be able to increase your firm’s offerings in ways that are meaningful instead of annoying. Since “data” can often seem like a vague buzzword, here are some examples of meaningful customer data:

  • Contact information
  • Services offered to them
  • Referral
  • Frequency, duration, and topics of their interactions with your staff
  • Their communication preferences

Avoid data silos within your firm

Once you’ve compiled customer data, however, correctly managing it is critical to its effective use. The “Power of Data Management” report by Vanson Bourne for Veritas found that lost or misplaced data results in an average 16 percent drop in employee productivity. Data will only lead to insightful action if it’s not hoarded in various departments or people in your firm. As a firm leader, you can avoid data silos simply by storing customer data in a secure, centralized location like a CRM, and giving your staff appropriate access.

Always listen to your clients’ needs and wants

Too often, we can get caught up in what our clients need and avoid delving into their underlying wants. Dealing with your clients on a financial level gives you a valuable opportunity to learn about their industry and individual business needs. By coming up with new ways to streamline their core operations or helping them stay on top of industry trends and news, you’ll increase your perceived value and gain a client who is more than happy to refer their friends and colleagues to your firm.

As a firm leader, there should be no higher priority than maintaining an authentic client focus throughout your firm. As client service is increasingly replaced with client experience, ensuring a premium experience is a must for every firm that wants to thrive in the coming years. Hopefully, this article helps you improve your firm’s focus on your client experience.

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