4 ways to make a memorable first impression on clients and prospects
Growing Your Firm

4 ways to make a memorable first impression on clients and prospects

Investing in the client experience pays off. Statistics show that 80% of clients leave firms where client support is lacking. On the flip side, 86 percent of clients will pay more for a positive client experience.

Consider two local restaurants you go to regularly.

You walk into the first one waiting for someone to acknowledge you. After a long wait, the server finally comes to your table and plops the menu down, then immediately rushes off without a word.

The restaurant across the street greets you by name. The staff is genuinely happy to see you. And your server quickly comes over with your favorite beverage.

Don’t skip the personal touch

Don’t leave the client experience to chance. Whether virtual or in-person, you want to delight your clients.  Consider ways to clearly send the message that they matter. As a result, this creates a memorable lasting impression.

First impressions are lightning quick. Instant conclusions form in 7 seconds, and changing someone’s initial opinion is difficult. And the bad ones are even more sticky than good ones.

According to Stephanie Vaughan Jones with Moneypenny, an answering service for accounting firms, you may be losing new clients without realizing it when the following happens:

  • There is no response to email messages about your firm’s services. According to Jones, “32% of email inquiries fail to receive a response.”
  • Phone calls go directly to voicemail.
  • Your voice mailbox is full.
  • When someone calls your office, whomever picks up the phone sounds annoyed by the interruption.

I call this the “factory style” of business. It’s transactional and lacks a personal touch.

Nail the first impression

So how do you create a delightful first impression? First, think about your experience when you’re interested in someone’s services. How quickly do you bounce to the next option when the response isn’t immediate? Potential clients who are interested in your firm’s services may be doing that, too. Consider the following quick solutions:

  • Decrease your response time. Create a client inquiry process. A quick response to inquiries often gets the best results. Our front office person fills the role of client-care manager. As the first responder, she handles all the incoming emails and phone messages. Training a staff person to manage your firm’s inbox frees up countless hours.
  • Widen the ways you can be reached. Consider the multiple ways people communicate. Client-centered firms offer a variety of options: email, phone, live chat, and even social media.
  • Make it easy. People are busy. No one wants to navigate the prompts of a phone tree. My agency outsourced an answering service that was on call 24/7 for live chats, email inquiries, and phone calls. We used them when our office staff was at lunch, in meetings, or after hours and not in the office.
  • Make it Clear. Clearly set expectations about the client experience. Download this Client Expectations Guide to include in your onboarding packet for new clients.

4 practical steps to guarantee a positive first impression

We want the client experience to make a solid, memorable first impression. Everything you do and say needs to be client-centric. Make it obvious that your firm is enthusiastic about its clients.

Systems give you freedom. Establish a company culture that prioritizes the client experience, then create a repeatable process for your team to follow.

1. Prioritize client support

Each email, call, or live chat conversation is handled with respect. Our agency checked message boxes at 9 am, 1 pm, and 4 pm. Most messages are answered the same day, even if it’s to let someone know we are working on their request.

2. Systematize and train

Phone, chat and email scripts are highly effective. You can expect those messages to evolve over time. Scripts ensure consistency and improve efficiency.

Script out a greeting. Hi, I’m [name] with [firm name]. What can I do for you today?

Script for new client inquiries. Let me find out a little more about you, before we set up an initial consultation.

Script for client requests that require follow up. Let me check on that and I will follow up within the next hour.

Script for a response to an angry client. I understand your frustration. Let’s see what we can do to set things right. What’s the best way to follow up with you?

When you receive a new question or request, write out the response. Then add it to the client communication file in your company portal or Google Drive. Over time, you will build a resource library of responses to commonly asked questions.

Then train team members on how to access that information and add to it. Countless hours are saved when your staff can answer common FAQs. Plus you no longer worry about what to say or need to type out each message individually.

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We want the client experience to make a solid, memorable first impression. Everything you do and say needs to be client-centric. Make it obvious that your firm is enthusiastic about its clients.

3. Pre-qualify prospects

Whether on your website or during a call, ask a couple of specific questions to ensure you are speaking with someone who's a right fit for your firm. Here are the exact questions we ask when someone’s interested in our services. Remember that not everyone may be a good fit for your firm.

4. Pay attention

People want to be heard. Active listening lets clients know they matter. It's as simple as using the other person’s name, summarizing the request, and explaining the next steps.

Client-centered companies such as Disney and Nordstrom put the client first. A company culture that prioritizes the client experience is what sets them apart from similar organizations.

  • Disney pays close attention to detail in order to exceed people’s expectations.  
  • Nordstrom staff learns to listen to customer requests.  Then they either respond with a yes or offer the best alternative possible.

Consider training every employee in your firm, whether client facing or behind the scenes, about how to exceed client expectations. When your staff goes the extra mile, you build a firm of loyal clients.

The easiest change to improve first impressions

People will simply hang up, click off, or bounce when something is difficult or complicated.

Follow the golden rule by focusing on the client first. The user experience reflects the interactive process. A client’s perceptions, emotions, and communications all factor into the overall experience.

Everything, from your website to how someone contacts your firm, ought to be a user-friendly, frictionless experience.

Availability and responsiveness are two easy, highly effective changes. No one wants to get caught in a phone tree, hear a voice mail message that the box is full, wait for a live chat response, or not have their messages returned.

Don’t leave the client experience to chance. Make it easy for clients, new and current, to connect with your firm. Client-centered firms put the client first, creating a positive first impression.

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