By Carrie Steffen, The Whetstone Group
One of the ways marketing professionals are elevating themselves within their firms is by shedding light on the important and often overlooked growth strategy of client service. While most firm marketing professionals are not client facing, marketers do understand the concept of value, service, meeting needs, communication and many other critical client service skills. They also can begin to educate their leadership teams on the impact clients have on top-line growth.
CPA firms often rely on revenue numbers, realization and chargeable hours to determine how business is going. But by giving your clients a voice, you’ll learn what you can be doing better, how to sustain high performance and how you can more effectively grow your firm’s top line.
The Link Between Loyalty and Revenue
A study conducted by InfoQuest to quantify the impact of client loyalty on revenue found that a “totally satisfied” customer contributes 2.6 times more revenue than a “somewhat satisfied” customer, and 14 times more revenue than a “somewhat dissatisfied” customer.
If we assume that customers who rate themselves as “totally satisfied” are loyal, it’s clear that loyalty plays a significant role in how much revenue a client generates for your business. Not only that, improving the lifetime value of your client base by increasing client retention levels significantly impacts your firm’s ability to grow its top-line because you aren’t constantly replacing revenue from clients who are leaving the firm.
Totally satisfied clients will also refer business to you and serve as a reference (if you ask)…making it easier to attract new relationships and making your other marketing efforts more successful.
Beyond the revenue impact, though, is the fact that working with loyal clients who recognize the value of the relationship with your firm, seek your counsel, are fun to serve and take your advice create for a very fulfilling practice. They create interesting professional opportunities and an enjoyable atmosphere. Who wouldn’t want to practice public accounting in an environment like that?
How Do You Know What Clients Value? Ask!
Coordinated efforts to improve client service can yield some of the greatest returns on investment of any growth activity. To be most effective, any effort related to improving client service should germinate from feedback from your best clients.
Often, when firms measure satisfaction, they focus on engagement satisfaction. How satisfied were they with the outcome? How did they enjoy the experience of working with your team? What could you do differently? How would they rate the deliverables? While important, these surveys don’t adequately measure how client feel about the relationship—which is what drives loyalty.
Consider a formalized program to learn the following from your clients:
- What attributes of service do they associate with your firm?
- What attributes of service are most important to them in hiring a CPA?
- How satisfied are they with your firm’s delivery of the attributes that are most important?
Understanding your clients’ perspective enables you to define the behaviors of client service that will enhance loyalty. You can then train everyone in the firm on the behaviors for consistent delivery. Clients will begin to see and feel the difference between your firm and others in the market.
If you are not yet focused on client experience in your firm, use resources, like AAM, to devise and implement a role for yourself in this area. At the very least, become a project champion for understanding what your clients value in their relationship with your firm. Arming your firm with this information will help you and other firm leaders make better decisions about how to achieve your firm’s goals.
About Carrie Steffen
Carrie is a founding shareholder and President of The Whetstone Group, Inc. Since 2000, Whetstone has provided growth consulting services to hundreds of CPA firms, professional service firms, and companies in business-to-business markets nationwide. She has over 20 years of professional services marketing experience.
Carrie helps clients:
• Determine how to best organize for growth and build a sustainable growth culture.
• Develop comprehensive growth plans, providing ongoing support and consultation.
• Establish accountability for business development and meet their revenue goals.
• Implement follow-up strategies to help manage the sales process with prospective clients and maximize their ROI on marketing.
She is also a skilled trainer and provides group sales training as well as one-on-one coaching that enables attendees to better understand the sales cycle and develop the personal skills necessary to close sales. Firm leaders, practitioners and marketing professionals benefit from her knowledge and dynamic approach.
Before joining Whetstone, Carrie was an in-house marketing director in the national marketing office of RSM McGladrey, Inc.