Practical Ways to Keep Your Clients Coming Back
Google the topic “how to keep customers coming back” and you won’t be short of articles talking about the various ideas to do this well. And, depending on your business model, personality and perhaps cosmic signs, some of them will work better for you than others.
I, however, can only speak from personal experience on one simple strategy that’s worked well for me: To consistently listen to, understand and deliver value to your customer throughout the year.
Sounds simple, yet most accountants never even had the chance of doing this during the year. Why? Because their business model doesn’t allow it. Specifically, I am talking about the model where accountants bill and charge for time.
“I don’t call my accountant because he is going to send me a bill for it” is a comment that I hear more often than I’d like. It’s a silly business model, really. If your customers are afraid to call and talk to you, how would you know what their needs and wants are – and if you don’t know this, how do you expect to provide value to them? Remember, value is defined by our customers, not us. We can stay in our batcave all year long pushing things out, but without listening to our customers, we’d never know if they cared about any of it.
Get rid of the billable hour and welcome your customers to call you. Chat with them. Listen to heir stories. The few hours you spend not being billable might just earn you a relationship that’s a thousand times more valuable.
So we’ve taken down the wall of communication between our customers and us. Awesome. What are they saying? We are listening, but are we understanding?
Accountants tend to be “solutionists.” We love to solve problems and puzzles, and apply our knowledge to different issues, which is fantastic, sometimes. Most other times, we skip the part of understanding the “why” behind our customers’ requests or questions. More often than not, the first issue that customers bring up is the least of their concern and they may not even know it. To really offer our customers what they are looking for, we must first dig deeper to understand what’s bothering them. Remember, it is rarely about a specific number on the tax return or general ledger, and almost always about how the financials are impacting their business and their lives.
Slow down and understand what your customers’ pains are and you will be on our way to building a better relationship.
We’ve listened. We’ve understood. Now it’s time for us to give to our customers what they are asking for.
If we’ve done everything correctly up to this point, we’ll realize that we cannot solve all of the problems our customers have. And that’s okay. Because we can solve some of it.
Do the same set of questions keep coming up from all of your customers? Answer it in your monthly newsletter or put it up as a FAQ on your site. Are all of your customers local and desire an environment where they can meet and learn from other entrepreneurs? Set it up. Nothing beats a good hour or two hanging out with like-minded individuals and talking shop. But please, leave the tax updates at home!
What if they are struggling with keeping their books in order throughout the year? Maybe your practice offers this service and, boom, additional income. No? I’m sure you have partner firms that do, so make the introduction and foster that relationship.
The key here is not what you do. Those are just tactics. What you want to focus on is the act of responding to what is desired and valued by your existing customers. Service a need or a want that is not fulfilled. Some of these things could result in additional work through the expansion of scope and services. Others could just be nice things you do to help them get closer to their goals. Either way, focusing on value is going to help strengthen your relationship with your customers.
Remember, people do business with people that they like, and in my experience, people tend to like – and sometimes feel obliged to like – those who help them move forward in life. What can you do to help them move forward?