Think about it from your client’s perspective. Your client is meeting with you, for the first time, to talk about something serious and meaningful to them, their finances. They are potentially nervous about the situation and don’t know what to expect when they get to your office. They are preparing to be overwhelmed in an environment which may be a far stretch from their own comfort zone. After all, most business owners don’t start their business because they understand, or get excited about their accounts and tax returns. They start a business to turn their passion into an income-generating machine, allowing them to have a great work/life balance.
What has greeted them when they have arrived at their accountant’s office in the past? More than likely, it was a sterile, unmemorable, sternly professional environment which had the underlying effect of making them feel as small and insignificant as the tax relief achieved by claiming the flat rate minimal use of home as office when self-employed.
But therein lies the opportunity for you as the next accountant on the block. Anything that you can do to break away from the status quo, providing your client with a positively memorable experience that oozes warmth and forethought from the word go will instantly frame you as the last accountant they will ever need.
So what can an accountant do to set the scene for an exceptional and long-standing relationship with the client?
- Set expectations with a thoughtful email – When confirming the meeting with your client, don’t waste the opportunity by merely sending a bland meeting request calendar link with a one liner stating “how much you are looking forward to meeting them”. This is your first opportunity to impress. Send them a google map with personalised directions on exactly how they can get to your office. Point out any issues that they may have in finding you and let them know how long the journey will take at the time of day that they will be making the trip. Explain clearly, in non-accountant talk, why they are meeting up with you, what they need to bring with them and why. Tell them, in your own words, why you are looking forward to meeting with them.
- A designated parking space in your office car park, personalised with a printed ‘reserved’ sign in your client’s name will instantly show the client that they have found your office and avoids any confusion about where they should park their car.
- Roll out the red carpet for your client prior to their arrival – literally. Now obviously, this move can be slightly tongue in cheek – but you can play on the comedy of the situation when the client arrives through the door. It is a nice ice breaker, with the underlying message “you matter to our accountancy firm”.
- Whoever first greets the client should offer the client a drink whilst they are waiting. Whether this be peppermint tea, hot chocolate, latte with extra cream or a simple glass of water, the trick is to make a note of the client’s preference for the next time they visit. The next time they visit, you can ask them if their preference is still “x” – displaying your firm’s attention to detail.
- Play some music in the waiting room – but not just any music of course. Perhaps give the means for your client to select their own music – e.g. Spotify on a connected tablet, or a full-blown jukebox with a sign inviting them to select a song. As well as making the client feel comfortable and in control of the situation, it will also help to ease any nerves about the meeting.
- Show a personalised greeting text on a screen welcoming (insert client name here) to (insert your firm name here). Again, this will display to the client that you are expecting them and that you are prepared for the meeting.
- Provide a game or puzzle to keep the client entertained whilst waiting for the meeting. Perhaps have a physical leader board on the wall that the client can enter their score onto. This will show the client that, just perhaps, accountants are not actually all dull and boring. It will also show to the client that you help other businesses who trust you to manage their finances. Note: extra points if the client knows one or more of the other names on the leader board.
- Provide social proof of the great service that you provide to your clients. This may be in the form of newspaper/magazine cuttings, blog posts print-outs, awards that the firm has won or pictures with clients etc. The message being “you don’t need to worry about trusting us with your finances. Just ask these people.”
- Follow up about something that the client said in passing on the phone/in an email when you arranged the meeting. Perhaps they were going on holiday, doing something of interest, their child was starting school etc. Again, this will evidence your attention to detail and show that, actually, you are interested in them as a human being – not just as someone you hope will invite you to access their Xero account by the end of the hour.
- Let the client know about one way you can help them or their business (apart from the expected financial support). This maybe something specific to their business’ industry, a hobby they are interested in or synergies between them and another of your clients that may help them.
You may feel that some of the above items are slightly too extravagant for your firm. However, you get the idea that there is ample opportunity for you to impress your clients. You will notice that all ten items have one thing in common – they can all be systemised until they become second-nature for you and your team.
Have a think about what will work for you. We’d love to hear about it too!
So what is next?…
OK. You’ve created the ultimate personalised client arrival environment that has been systemised to the point that your team can do it in their sleep. What else can you do to provide a great client service and position yourself as a trusted adviser? Take a look at this article.
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