Using Client Surveys to Improve Accounting Client Service
Have you recently completed a client survey? Received feedback from a client in a more informal manner? Asking clients about the services you provide them is an important marketing tactic. I won’t go into all the pros and cons of why you should do a survey; instead, I’ll look at what you should do with the knowledge gained from the process.
Whether you invested significant time and dollars into a formal survey or simply asked your clients for feedback at the end of a meeting, every response you receive is a valuable tidbit of data you can use to improve the services you provide. The key is taking action. Knowledge is power. It’s up to you to use it to your advantage.
Here are a few ways you can use the feedback you receive from your clients to improve your service to them.
Develop a Plan of Action
Ideally, you would have a follow-up plan in place before you do a survey. However, it’s never too late to develop one. This doesn’t need to be a formal document either. It can be as simple as a few bullet points or scheduling meetings to get the ball rolling. What you should do is ask yourself:
- Who are you going to share the results with?
- When will you share it?
- What will you share?
- What do you want to achieve as a result?
When considering your plan, also think about a timeline. Often, people need deadlines to force them to take action. It’s even more important in this situation to act while the information in fresh in everyone’s your mind so you can remedy problems before they result in a lost client.
Involve Your Team
Unless you’re the only employee in your company, there are other people who interact with clients and are responsible for the client experience. Client service is most often a team sport. Be sure to share the results with everyone on your team. Use this opportunity to brainstorm how to improve on what you do.
Consider addressing various issues, such as timeliness, proactivity and value provided, independently. Encourage people to develop ideas on how to improve each of the issues. Compile these ideas in one place. Then decide which ones can be implemented right away and which ones require further discussion or time.
Your team members have great ideas that can truly help you – just ask.
Share Results With Your Clients
Your clients took your survey. They invested their time to help you. Why don’t you share what you found? Draft a letter to your clients providing a summary of your findings. Resist the urge to tell them how wonderful you are. You can acknowledge that you scored well in certain areas, but be truthful and admit there are areas for improvement. Share some of the actions you will take to improve, too. This is a great way to show clients that you value their thoughts.
Don’t just stop at a letter to all clients; consider one-on-one client meetings. If a client puts his or her name on a survey, you can discuss specific responses with them. They have given you the green light to have this conversation with them. For example, if a client references a deadline you missed, talk about it. Apologize and discuss what can be done differently next time so this doesn’t happen again. This is a great opportunity for you to set expectations as to when you need information from the client to be able to uphold your part of the bargain.
Create Client Service Plans
Have you sat back and detailed your client relationships? A client service plan is a great way to not only improve client service and satisfaction, but also to improve cross selling and profitability. A few of the areas you might want to include in your plan are:
- Client details – business and industry information, pain points and client goals
- Client work – engagement overview, fees/realization and agreed-upon due dates
- Relationship overview – roles of everyone on the team and who on your team maintains the primary relationship with members of the client’s team
- Relationship building – your touch points with the client (newsletters, scheduled meetings, golf outings, for example)
- Growth opportunities – potential services needed immediately and longer term
If this sort of in-depth plan isn’t for you, just keep it simple and spell out two things – what actions do you want to take with the client in various quarters of the year and what potential work do you need to discuss with the client. Add reminders of these activities on your calendar. Or consider adding it to your workflow software so you are forced to address these items as they appear. If you plan to take steps to improve the relationship, chances are … you will.
Think about the knowledge you gained through your survey process. Besides identifying all the areas where you can improve, make the critical areas that require immediate response a priority. It’s often not too late to rebuild and repair relationships with clients. And if they openly shared areas for improvement with you, they want you to act upon them so they don’t have to leave. If you taking any of these actions, you’ll be a step ahead and your valued clients won’t go anywhere.