As an accountant, numbers are your bread and butter, and as a business owner, it’s likely that one of your most important numbers is the number of clients you have. With the right tools and information, you can implement an effective client retention strategy that enables your practice to grow without even increasing the number of clients on your roster.
Why Client Retention is Crucial
Your client retention rate can generate revenue in a variety of ways. It’s easier to keep established clients happy than it is to find new ones. On average, current clients tend to spend more on services than new ones do. Keeping your existing clientele happy, so that they want to come back, also renders them to make referrals to family, friends or colleagues, and that’s another excellent way to grow your business. So what elements can you include in your own plan to increase client retention?
Set and Maintain Expectations
If you eliminate any mystery regarding what your clients can expect from their accountant-client relationship, it benefits both of you. At the beginning of a relationship, it’s helpful to clearly spell out a few things in writing. Consider preparing a standardized, boilerplate document which lays out such information as:
- What services you’re performing under your contract
- Your timetables for rendering those services
- Your level of accessibility for routine and emergency communications
- The means by which your clients can contact you
- Response times for returning emails and phone calls
- Acceptable time frame and method for payments
If you charge extra for items such as rush work, courier services, late payments, and postage or travel beyond the local area, it’s wise to include this information in your letters of engagement and contracts. Whatever terms you have at the start of your accountant-client relationship, it’s important to continue them. If you make changes, give ample advance notice to your clients to demonstrate your professionalism and respect.
Show Genuine Appreciation
The old saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” still rings true. When you add a new client to your practice, making a good first impression helps the relationship last. Little touches, such as “welcome to the family” emails, hand-written thank you notes, and adding, “Your business is appreciated,” to your invoices, receipts, and statements lets clients know you value the opportunity to serve their needs.
When clients call you and you’re not available, return their calls promptly to show respect and increase their level of satisfaction with your service. In addition to birthday greetings, send your clients business anniversary notes to acknowledge their longevity as clients with your firm: in fact, if they have contributed significantly to your firm’s bottom line, send something more, like a gift baskets.
Make it Easy to Do Business With You to Boost Client Retention Rates
When your clients experience how easy it is to work with you and the ways in which you simplify their business and personal lives, you give them a reason to keep you as their accountant. Interaction across multiple channels includes automation of your appointment scheduling, sending reminders and mobile invoicing as well as payment processes. These courtesies enable clients to conduct business with you quickly and efficiently. Let them know what to do next with “sign here” flags and filing instructions, to reduce the likelihood of errors, and offer conveniences such as pre-addressed and stamped envelopes to save them time and money. These touches strengthen your clients’ business ties to you, increasing the probability of their continued return when they are in need of your services and boosting your client retention rate.
Get to Know Your Clients
The more you know about your clients, the easier it is to engage with them, anticipate their needs, and incorporate your knowledge into a personalized client retention strategy. Professionals like doctors, dentists and attorneys make notes about their patients or clients, such as, “X just started a new job, plays tennis, and the couple is expecting their first child in June.” Brief notes on clients helps to create opportunities to act on that information, from congratulatory messages to cross-selling your services, which opens the door to additional potential revenue for your firm.
Utilize Recurring Revenue
You might be familiar with the concept of recurring revenue as a customer or client retention idea for retail businesses, and perhaps some of your clients use it in their enterprises. Recurring revenue can work as part of your client retention strategy for your accounting practice, too.
Each one of your clients has a birthday. Use that as a starting point. Keep notes about them, schedule birthday greetings via email or postal mail, and include your offer for a free 30-minute “year in review” consultation as a gift to use within 30 days of their birthday. Use those sessions to inform them about Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) tax changes that affect their businesses as well as grant or loan programs for which they may qualify. This is also a good time to help them to set up succession plans for the smooth continuation of their operations after they retire or in the event of their demise.
Perhaps your client owns an auto repair shop and because you do their taxes, you know they’ve taken full depreciation on their diagnostic equipment. The way technology changes, the time has come for them to get new, cutting-edge tools. You can use a birthday consultation to discuss how they can obtain a low-interest loan for the upgrades, and show them alternative ways to acquire the equipment and enjoy the best tax benefits. At that point, you can offer to contract for consulting services in order to facilitate the loan process, help them negotiate the purchase, and ensure they maximize their tax benefits.
Add value to your client relationships, and set up opportunities for recurring revenue and repeat business. Your clients have more reasons to stick with you because they believe you’re always looking out for their best interests.
Implement a Feedback System for Client Retention
A feedback system enables you to know what your clients are thinking about the quality of service they receive from your accounting firm. It’s a good idea to incorporate a formal method of soliciting, capturing and analyzing feedback as part of your client retention strategy.
If you have an accounting firm website, an easy and effective way to receive feedback is creating a feedback@yourcompanyname dot com email address. Offer an email address dedicated to feedback to give your clients quick and direct access to a means by which they can express satisfaction or dissatisfaction regarding your level of service. Add a feedback form too, with a ticket management system to track feedback and ensure that your clients promptly receive an automated response email. The response details the next steps to take and gives them an idea of how much time you will need to resolve their issues.
Use Customer Surveys and Client Retention Software
Customer surveys are useful in gauging customer loyalty and helping you determine your Net Promoter Score (NPS). NPS surveys ask your clients one question, “How likely are you to recommend our company to a friend or colleague?” Clients respond on a scale of 0 to 10. Based on the score, the responding clients are divided into three categories: Promoters, Passives, and Detractors, and you have the opportunity to address each category.
The customer survey realm offers you numerous choices including Retently NPS Software, which lets you collect, analyze, and take action on your clients’ feedback after they answer the NPS survey question. With multiple categories of prices and a 14-day free trial, this is a practical tool to start with. NiceJob, made for service businesses, is designed to increase client loyalty and create advocates by encouraging them to use online reviews to make recommendations to their friends. This option features a 14-day free trial too, and after that there are two levels of flat-rate monthly payment options with no contract requirement. Customer survey tools such as Qualaroo, Typeform, Survey Monkey, and Get Feedback, allow you to customize surveys. You can use a single question or multiple questions, and elicit yes or no responses as well as more detailed comments.
You work diligently to serve your clients and by using effective client retention strategies, you can keep them. Collaborate with clients, stay on track, and grow your firm with QuickBooks Online Accountant. Sign up for free.