As Peter Drucker once said, “Quality in a service or product is not what the supplier puts in, but what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for. Customers pay only what is of use to them and gives them value. Nothing else constitutes quality.” In other words, quality work alone may not necessarily be perceived by the client as quality service. It means even more than doing a great technical job and more than having a satisfied client, it means offering remarkable client service.
In this competitive marketplace, CPA firms must offer remarkable client service that creates customer loyalty and retention. Firms need to provide their clients with remarkable client service, not just quality traditional services, in order to grow and sustain a competitive edge, such as:
Be Anticipatory, not just Proactive
Anticipating a client’s needs is an important component of remarkable service. Establishing close contacts and continuous open lines of client communications, along with a deep understanding of a client’s business and industry, can bring a presence of mind to anticipate needs. Exceptional client service is driven by recognizing what needs are truly important to your clients, and delivering the services necessary to meet those needs. Servicing the unexpected wishes of clients and anticipating what they need before they know it, can elevate your Firm to a higher level of client loyalty. The Ritz-Carlton is one of the most famous brands that follows this technique. All employees are trained to fulfill not only the expressed, but also the unexpressed wishes and needs of their guests.
Anticipating client’s needs is like a game of chess played by professionals. The best chess players are always thinking a few moves ahead of their opponents. In the same way, Partners and Staff need to be a few moves ahead of their clients to anticipate their wants and needs.
Exceeding client expectations requires that the Firm’s entire staff—from the Receptionists, to the Marketing, HR and IT professionals, to Staff, Managers and Partners—are aligned and working in harmony. Firms need to truly understand their client’s expectations and implement the appropriate guidelines and service standards to exceed them. When a Firm properly brings its team and processes together by putting their clients at its core, exceeding expectations becomes possible with all touch points. It is no longer enough to be technically competent, clients desire firms who are completely connected to their businesses and can act as visionaries for their companies. Listening carefully to your clients as to their needs and desires, attending client industry meetings and obtaining periodic client feedback, will allow a Firm to exceed client expectations.
It’s a Culture and Attitude
Remarkable client service is an attitude and is ingrained in the Firm’s culture. It’s a constant service process, set by a remarkable client service line that drives the Firm strategy at every level. Consistently sharing client service “best practices” with the Partners and staff will help them adopt some of the practices. It will also assist them in creating new ones on their own, and pass the practices on to the Firm’s future generations.
Steve Jobs once said, “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.” Now that’s remarkable client service!