How to Create a Wow Experience for Your Accounting Clients

I like to think of myself as a student of “cool ideas” from the world of business. I am intrigued and inspired by business owners who pursue their passion, especially when it leads to coloring “outside the lines.” I love the entrepreneurs who seek to revolutionize the norms in their industry, who aren’t afraid to swim upstream, or better yet, get up and walk across the river to a whole new way of doing business with their beloved customers. It’s the crazy-thinking, paradigm-shifting thought leaders who challenge the rest of us to let go of old patterns and embrace new ideas.

In the forever pursuit of “WOW,” these game-changing entrepreneurs find opportunities in even the most mundane industries. To that spirit, I’m issuing a challenge to the accounting profession to move the client emotion needle from “Woe is me” to WOW!

Let’s face it – most people don’t expect a WOW experience when dealing with an accounting firm. In fact, you could argue that, for most people, dealing with their accounting and tax needs is more of “woe is me” than a truly “WOW” experience, but what if we could turn this thing upside down? No more, “Feel sorry for me, I have to get my taxes done.” Instead, the sentiment we would hear is, “I love tax time because my accounting firm is so fun (maybe unpredictably wonderful) to deal with.”

What if your entire goal for this coming tax season was to find ways to “WOW” your clients? Not just deliver their tax return in a timely manner, but to actually get a great big, unbridled “WOW” out of them. What would you have to do to make this happen?

According to Jeanne Bliss, author of I Love You More Than My Dog, the key to creating extraordinary experiences starts with clarity of purpose and deliberateness of action for every point of customer contact. Deliberateness speaks to a conscious, intentional, well-considered approach designed to create a specific outcome. There is a journey to go from “Woe” to “WOW.” Firms don’t get there overnight, but there are two key questions that can jump-start your efforts.

Question #1: What are the greatest fears and frustrations people have when dealing with their financial, tax and accounting issues?

The answers and ideas for improvement that are stimulated by this question set a minimum expectation of performance. Frankly, the types of measures associated with this question should be considered standard operating procedures.

Question #2: What could we do to improve our clients overall all quality of life?

The answers and ideas that are stimulated by this question will likely fall outside the boundaries of a typical CPA-client relationship. Yet, the results provide an opportunity for creating the most effective sales force your firm could ever ask for: Raving Fans!

The accounting profession could take some notes from industrial giant, Rubbermaid, whose sub headline on their website is, “Brands that Matter™.” Part of Rubbermaid’s overall consumer-centric strategy includes hosting consumer focus groups all over the world every day of the year. From these groups, the company gleans ideas and innovations that drive the development and release of literally hundreds of new or newly improved products every year.

The most interesting (and relevant to the profession) aspect of Rubbermaid’s strategy lies in the quality of questions deployed in the focus groups. Yes, the company wants to learn how to improve its existing products, but even more importantly, it seeks to find ways to improve the quality of life for consumers by asking, “What would make your life easier?” It is this two-tact approach that has provided Rubbermaid with a distinct competitive advantage in the marketplace. The company even has a “partners” program that encourages consumers and inventors to submit their ideas to be developed under the Rubbermaid brand.

“How can we make your life easier?” is a very different question from, “How can we make getting your taxes done easier?” By not limiting their pursuit in excellence to existing products or marketplaces, Rubbermaid has gone from making just dish pans and gloves to having thousands of products in nearly every market geography and industry – all while maintaining its position as a premium manufacturer. The company’s products fetch a higher price and perceived value accordingly.

In the same vein, accounting firms that pay attention to the overall needs of their clients are far more likely to create Raving Fans and create a higher perception of value in their marketplace.

So before this next tax season gets underway, sit down with your team and talk to them about innovation. Brainstorm ideas to “WOW” your clients. Imagine that you have implemented a new subhead to your firm name that goes something like this: “Clients Matter.” Ask your team what would be required for your firm to truly matter in your client’s life.

Pick just one or two of the best ideas to roll-out during tax season. Look for pivotal moments in your client cycle of interaction and insert a new experience/outcome into the existing relationship. Then stand back and watch the transformation from “woe is me” to “WOW!”

I’d love to hear about some of these ideas you and your team create and how they played out. Send a note to edi@mentorplus.com and I’ll publish your strategies in an upcoming newsletter.