The business landscape is constantly evolving and we need to evolve with it in order to stay relevant to our clients and to retain them. The most significant cause of that evolution is technology.
Technology, especially communication technology, has had many powerful and positive effects on business and society, but there have been some downsides. Ironically, the sudden explosion in the ability to communicate remotely has created a vacuum in personal experience and the weakening of relationships, including business relationships. As an accounting firm, you can leverage the technology while strengthening personal experiences to position yourself as a strong firm with a solid and growing client base into the future.
Know Your Clients – and Your Future Clients
The first step in planning for the retention of your clients is to get to know them. Create a customer profile that defines them (business or individual), their assets, the work you do for them, etc. Your client base will determine the core information to collect. For instance, if you mostly work with individuals, you’d want to define their age, tax bracket, careers, etc. If you work mostly with companies, you’d define their size, industry, etc. Look for consistent qualities. You will probably find you have several customer types.
With this knowledge, you can make plans to retain these clients, increase the work you do for them, and create plans to find more clients like them. Conversely, you may find that a certain customer profile causes you much too much trouble for the financial benefit and you may want to wean yourself from that customer type in order to allow more time for more lucrative and enjoyable clients.
Your next step is to make intentional efforts to communicate with your clients in order to strengthen your personal connections and ask if they have any other needs. Your business exists to solve problems. See what problems they have that you may be able to help with. You can start with a survey, then follow up with a personal call.
Collecting this information will also help you plan for future clients. You’ll be able to determine what kinds of clients give you the most satisfaction and financial benefits and what other services you may be able to offer. This information can steer your marketing and client expansion plans into the future.
Integrating Technology and the Personal Touch
Because of the many programs and online financial and accounting services available, many businesses and individuals are choosing to handle their own financial needs. While it may work for some people, it does not work well for others. It’s up to you to demonstrate that they will get much better results if they trust a professional. By integrating some of the new technology into your business, you can provide the ease of new technology along with the expertise and personal relationships that most people really want.
Embrace technology. Interconnect with clients using 3rd party vendor programs that allow data to flow between you and the client effortlessly but securely. Develop standardized processes and automate as many as possible. Offer phone apps for uploading information on the fly for busy entrepreneurs. Optimize your local SEO and build your online reviews.
This may seem overwhelming, but you don’t have to do it yourself. Just as you want others to come to you for your expertise, you should go to someone else for expertise. Depending on the size of your firm, you can hire a tech support person, purchase services from a tech services company, or dip into the gig industry by hiring a freelancer. The investment will be well worth it.
Online learning is an exploding industry and you can tap into it. Offer online classes (for a fee) in things like “how to read financial reports,” “understanding forecasting,” “business planning,” or anything else you think would help your own client base and also help you draw more high-quality clients. The benefit, too, is that you will have better-educated clients who will see you as a partner next time they sit down with you to discuss their financials.
Consider expanding your services based on your client feedback, or consider unbundling services, offering package prices for different needs. Here are just a few examples to consider:
- Bookkeeping, payroll, invoicing and bill-pay
- Business valuation
- Technical consulting
- Management services for wealthy individuals
- Business planning
- Contract review
- Business model development
- Entrepreneurial/start-up services
Whatever services you choose to offer, make sure you have developed clear processes, automating as many steps as possible, and make sure you do them often enough to make them worthwhile and accurate.
By leveraging technology and offering a positive customer service experience, you can ensure your firm grows strong into the future.