Introduction to the Top 10 Series
This is an article from our industry specific top 10 series. Ten separate blogs cover our 10 key marketing objectives, but with a different industry in mind for each series. Here is Tip 7 & in the accountancy series, Client retention, repetition, and scaling. Tips 1-6 in this series are also on our blog page covering all the earlier stages in the customer journey.
Tip 7– Client retention, repetition, and scaling
Time for a true story…
About two years ago, I had one business, a simple business-coaching firm as part of a franchise. The accounts were straightforward and did not require much interpretation. There were almost nil cash-flow headaches as clients paid in advance for the services and there were no direct real costs, no supply chain, no loans/credit accounts and accounts with terms and so on. At that time, I had stayed with the same accountancy firm for about 8 years.
The Middle – the change
Two years ago, I partnered with a client into a different business sector. This was the first time I had directly employed staff, and it meant many additional issues arose. It also created some important questions over how to best manage dividends, earnings and the like, between the two companies.
During the first year of my involvement with the second business, I found I was chasing my accountancy firm for answers and was often having to make repeated calls or handle inbound response calls that were inconvenient to me. It even reached a point where I asked for some important information and was told, “I’ll get that to you next month as we are doing the end of year accounts for everyone now”.
The Unfortunate End
I wasn’t unsympathetic to the supplier’s seasonal peak loading, but my question was actually urgent and vital to making the right decision on the sale of my first company. Needless to say, I found another accountant who was swifter to respond and generally more helpful.
The interesting thing here is that the owner of the first accounting practice is a school friend of mine; a guy I like a lot and for whom I would generally fight his corner. But when it comes to business, clarity on important information and showing care and attention, the friendship came second.
It might be that the relationship was 8 years in and was being taken for granted, or it might be that my account had been passed to others to handle without direct involvement of the director. The second option here I could understand, but not without a conversation happening. And at no point should my ongoing needs become less important; they are being paid to receive calls and give advice. Why is a new client treated with more care and attention than a long standing one? I’m sure my story is similar to every business owner who made the switch to someone else; it was based on the apparent lack of caring anymore.
The point to note here is that they lost a growing client account. I now have 3 businesses with about 20 staff between them. We use much more in the way of reporting, and we have made full use of a wider range of accountancy services than I did during the previous 8 year relationship. This business is all now going to their competitor, simply because the new accountant has helped us willingly and has stayed in touch with our growing needs and changing circumstances. So far at least, they have avoided the 8th of the seven deadly sins, that of complacency.
Staying in Touch
So, what can you do to prevent similar stories happening with your accounting clients?
Your marketing, in the form of account management, needs to be upgraded. It needs to keep the relationship aspect top of the pile always. It needs to include elements which are ‘non-transactional’ those which have the appearance of personal care and attention, even if it is in fact a highly systemised series of regular touch points. The key however, is to stay in touch with the changing needs and environment of your clients. Get that right, and you will retain, scale, and remain relevant and helpful to them for a long time. And if they like you enough, they will say no to others who seek to win that working relationship away from you and they may even recommend you to others. But more about that on the next tip…