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Personal attention to clients paves the way for accountancy practice expansion

Unless accountancy practices take the time to understand the client experience, investment in expansion could be unsustainable.

Before planning an expansion of your accountancy firm, it's worth taking a step back and asking a difficult question: how much do your clients like you? It might sound like a childish question, but unless you understand the underlying basis of why clients use your services, your business will be more open to threats.

It might be that clients like your fee structure, have built a particular relationship with an accountant, or that you are simply convenient. Whatever it is, unless you understand the relationship, clients could be lured away wholesale by a competitor without you knowing why.

As a recent article on Accounting Web reports, the best way to get to know what clients think about you is to get personal, increasing points of contact and tracking so you have a system that measures engagement. It's best to do this before you have an accountancy practice loan in place, so you can make informed decisions about how to develop your business.

Shortcomings of traditional client engagement

Most accountancy firms have a mechanism for collecting client feedback. Typically forms are sent periodically, or on completion of a major task. Yet these forms are dependent on people taking the time to give full and honest answers. There is also no way of compelling clients to return forms, so you have a self-selecting client group submitting crucial data.

Another way of measuring client engagement is to record response rates to brochure mailings, emails and similar initiatives. Unfortunately, many accountancy firms have no real system for tracking and measuring responses. Similarly, firms often host expensive corporate events for clients, without setting up a system to define objectives and determine success.

Take the time to build up relationships

Relationships are built on a series of interactions, not occasional contact. To really understand why you have the custom of existing clients and what will help to attract new ones, partners need to take the time to demonstrate regular commitment to clients. Phone calls and meetings will make clients feel valued and give them the opportunity to open up about their experience of your firm.

These interactions should not feel like a dreary obligation. If you see client contact as a chore, they will pick up on it and think you are wasting their time and your own. Asking questions and listening carefully to answers will show the client that you care, and yield more valuable information.

The value of understanding the client's perspective

It can be a revelation to see your business from the client's perspective. With more relaxed communication you will come to understand a client's business pressures, trends within their sector, and how they plan to develop.

Once you engage with your client's challenges and strategy in this way, you can shape your business to suit their needs. Whether it's a major task or something tiny such as changing the language you use, you will be able to find more ways to deliver a genuinely good service.

See your time as an investment

Partners' time is valuable. It's not always easy to set time aside to make contact with clients, or be in the right frame of mind to have a genuine engagement. The process also only works if you have the time to consider the information you receive carefully, identifying patterns and thinking of ways your firm can respond.

Finding thirty minutes a week to engage with clients should be feasible for all partners. To keep minds focussed on why you are engaging with clients, try comparing retention and feedback from clients who receive your traditional treatment with a group managed under the new engagement model.

A sustainable footing for expansion

Clients who feel valued are much more likely to recommend your services. Taking a more in-depth approach to engagement can be the first step in attracting new clients to expand your business. As your client base grows, whether organically or through a targeted-acquisition campaign, finding reliable accountancy finance will be a key priority.

Well-structured professional services finance can make all the difference to the success of your company. Whether you need to take on new staff, invest in new premises or bring in improved software, Wesleyan Bank can help you explore the available options. Why not give us a call on 0800 980 9348 to discuss your needs or contact us.

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