One of the pivotal issues that arose at recent firm staff interviews and staff retreats is that our clients do not get their telephone and email issues addressed in a timely manner. Many practitioners and administration team members have mentioned to me that they get frustrated when the client calls back often agitated that they have not had a return call or email in what they consider a reasonable time. This is always one of the top three improvements that is suggested to improve customer service.

Is That the Ticket to Better Client Service?

It made me think of a recent experience I had. My computer experienced issues with Windows 10 tiles that would not load. I called my local computer support provider to seek assistance and was greeted by a very cheerful and professional person who actively listed to my issue and within a few minutes of my call I received an email (or SMS, my preference) with an acknowledgement of the call, a traceable ticket number and a complete description of my problem. From there I was constantly updated and upon successful rectification of my issue I received another email closing the case and seeking comments on the quality of their service.

I had the opportunity of talking to the owner of this company. He mentioned to me that this system is the cornerstone of their customer service management. Further each week at the workflow meeting (Mondays at 8.30am) they review all open tickets as a team to action them to ensure the turnaround time of jobs is a brief as possible and clients are kept well informed of the status of jobs. Finally, the system generates a report of the type of issues that are logged and the responses which I used as a training aid and a knowledge management recording system.

I wonder if in the accounting industry if we could learn from that experience. Should we be logging calls and emails through our Customer or Client Relationship Management (CRM) systems and sending an email or SMS acknowledging the clients contact with us? Should it have some reference number and summary of the question? At least that way the client would feel that they have been listened to and their question is being actioned. 

Further to that can we manage all our client conversations in one place irrespective of the source - email, phone or social media and offer support that is both personal and quick. I know how frustrated I get when someone tells me they will call or email me and they do not do so. Something to consider…….?

This probably leads to another question. Do you have a Client Relationship Management system in your firm? Wikipedia defines this system as “Practices, strategies and technologies that companies use to manage and analyse customer interactions and data throughout the client lifecycle, with the goal of improving business relationships with clients”. Here are 4 reasons why a CRM system could help in an accounting firm:

1. Register Leads and Contacts: You never know when a client is ready to engage with you. Keep them warm and engaged. It is never too late to start organising your clients, prospects and even suspects. 

2. Track Client Interaction: Next time you talk to a client or prospect, you hold the upper hand when you know what that person is talking about. You can get the client to feel they are listened to and important. History builds long-time relationship. 

3. Reveal Possibilities: How many prospects have you engaged or followed up? That’s why keeping them active in your CRM system is so important. And if you have an interesting newsletter or an innovative seminar promotion their business might be yours in the future.

4. Your Most Valuable Asset: Client data. Clients change jobs, addresses and phone numbers. An up to date CRM system gives you one central point of client management and engagement.

Can you take the opportunity of completing this short four question survey on a telephone or email logging system and CRM? I am interested in developing some market intelligence on this issue and solutions to address any customer service breakdown. Click here to take this 4 question survey.

Client service is one of the topics we will be covering at our Young Guns Workshop coming in March 2017, click here for all details.

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Mark Holton Smithink