Is client experience a deciding factor for prospective clients as they consider engaging a new accounting and advisory firm?
It seems like a simple question, but marketers and business developers have long struggled to accurately and definitively define the role CX plays in client acquisition.
Some of the trouble stems from what we mean by “client experience,” said Lee Frederiksen, Ph.D., managing partner at Hinge Marketing. For example, an excerpt from Hinge’s 2018 publication, Differentiation Guide for Professional Services Firms, may seem to claim that buyers of professional services don’t consider their relationship with the firm as a buying criterion.
“In our research of professional services firms, we have found another reason to reject client service as a differentiator – buyers don’t even consider it a selection criterion. A lack of customer service may be a reason you lose a client, but it rarely plays into the initial selection process. Unless a buyer has been burned recently by poor service, it’s just not relevant to them yet.”
Service is Part of CX
Frederiksen said the quote refers specifically to “client service” as being parallel to “customer service,” concepts such as returning phone calls and delivering “service with a smile.”
“Client service and client experience (CX) are not the same. Client experience, as widely defined, refers to all of the client’s experiences with a firm and might include thought leadership, expertise, flexibility, costs, and reputation,” Frederiksen said. “For some folks it is almost akin to your brand experience. We see them as very different concepts, with ‘client service’ as a subset of CX.”
“That doesn’t mean that service is not important for retention and referrals, just that it is a mistake to use it as a differentiator. It is table stakes. It is certainly important, but not a good approach to winning new clients.”
On the other hand, Frederiksen said CX can be used as a differentiator (to the extent that there is something different about a firm’s CX) since it can encompass many aspects of how service is structured and delivered, some of which may be quite relevant to firm selection.
View the full article “Does Client Experience Impact Buying Decisions?” on page 16 of the Spring 2021 issue of Growth Strategies to learn more about how to define CX for prospects and how marketers and business developers should consider the client experience impact on their communication strategies.
About Heather Kunz
Heather Kunz is the manager of marketing and business development, Williams, Benator & Libby.