Client retention is a topic that is not discussed enough in the accounting profession. However, it is widely known in business that retaining clients is more cost-effective than acquiring new clients. According to the Harvard Business Review, a new client will cost you between 5X to 25x more than the cost of keeping a client you already have. Yet, many firms still focus on adding new clients to propel growth. Although, this may help increase your top-line revenue, it does not necessarily increase your bottom line.
Here are 11 out-of-the-box tips to retain your clients and turn them into raving, referral-driving fans for your firm.
- Create a client-centric culture. Your firm exists because you are a problem solver. Every day, you solve problems for clients. Undoubtedly, you want to keep them happy. Try creating a culture that focuses on the overall client experience and not just the deliverables. This could mean establishing a “Client Bill of Rights,” and communicating with your team and clients what it means to have a superior client experience.
- Design and implement a client loyalty program. Salesforce.com defines a customer loyalty program as “a marketing approach that recognizes and rewards customers who purchase or engage with a brand on a recurring basis.” Monthly bookkeeping clients, by default, are loyal customers because they are paying you on a recurring basis. Make it formal by establishing a client loyalty program. This can be done in several ways and does not have to break the bank. One way is to award points each month based on simple criteria that can be redeemed for movie passes, gift cards, software subscriptions, or event tickets.
- Keep your word. This should go without saying. but clients rely on you doing what you say that you’re going to do when you say you are going to do it. If you say you are going to respond by the end of the day, then respond by the end of the day. Give yourself grace by giving a reasonable timeframe instead of a definite date and time when promising a deliverable.
- Overcommunicate. One of the top reasons prospects replace their bookkeeper or accountant is because they did not respond timely or failed to properly communicate. Overcommunicate in the sense that you are giving the client timely updates, relaying information promptly, and checking in as often as practical. Simply reach out or update the client before the client reaches out to you.
- Get to know them and not just their business. Sherrell Martin of Nitram Financial Solutions explains that building a relationship with her clients has allowed her to maintain a high retention rate every year for the last five years. No client wants to feel like they are just a dollar sign. You can accomplish this by using an intake form during your onboarding process to gather intel about your client’s likes and dislikes so that you can tailor gifts or experiences around their preferences.
- Let them get to know you and not just your business. Give clients a small glimpse into your personal life. whether that’s through a blog, family photos, or a newsletter. I am insanely private, but a few times a year, I give clients a peep into my life. I’ve told them about my struggle with infertility, my difficulties of being a working mom, and my passion for cooking. Humanize yourself and you will be appreciated even more.
- Send a handwritten thank you note. Another way to be more personable is to mail a handwritten thank you or appreciation note. Snail mail is underutilized. My mailbox is usually filled with junk mail and marketing pieces. A stamped envelope with a handwritten letter will make an impression on your clients if their mailboxes are filled with the same.
- Create an “Easy” button experience. If you remember the “Easy” button by a popular office supply store, then you understand that easy is the only way. Most clients cannot do complex when it comes to their taxes and finances. Present information in digestible chunks or use color-coded graphs and charts. Another “Easy” button way is to use a “happy face” when they’ve had a good financial month and a “sad face” when not. Add a few key metrics to provide a more complete but condensed picture.
- Establish yourself as the expert. “Your client should make it a point to contact you for all tax and financial decisions,” says Kesha M Harris, EA, of The Resilient Tax Group, Inc. By establishing yourself as the expert, your clients will feel that they have someone that will take care of them.
- Send a singing telegram instead of a birthday card. Everyone loves being recognized on their birthday. If you’ve ever been the recipient of the Facebook Shoutout on your birthday, then you understand all the warmth and outpouring of love that one gets. Birthday cards are cute, but a singing telegram will stand out and be memorable. Virtual singing telegrams are just as effective. #freeidea
- Ask for feedback – often. A client feedback loop will allow the client to provide valuable information related to your business and the services you provide. The client will also feel that you are listening to their concerns and taking action when appropriate. A simple way to implement this is by sending out an automated survey each month asking for ratings and feedback from clients.
- BONUS TIP: Increase your prices. This may not seem like a tip because raising your prices may cause you to lose clients, but that’s the point. Price increases can work in your favor. Increasing your prices will allow clients who don’t fit your new pricing or service model to disengage so that you can super-serve your most loyal client base. This should result in fewer clients, but more revenue if you do it right. The narrative around the price increase should reflect a win-win for all parties. Given inflation is at an all-time high, increase prices now and fund some of the above tips to create that client-centric culture.
I’ve used many of these tips in my firm, and have very high retention among my bookkeeping and tax clients. With these 11+ tips at your disposal, you will hopefully reduce your churn, retain super dope clients, and add more dollars to your bottom line. A client retention strategy, or at least the implementation of a few of these tips, should be a part of every firm’s plan to carry them into the future.