With tax season now behind us, this time of year serves as a good reminder that our clients are the core reason why we are a thriving professional services firm. They need and require the services we provide, but choose to remain Withum clients. A Wolters Kluwer white-paper was recently released, which identified that at any point in time, one-third of a tax and accounting firm’s clients are considering leaving because they are not happy with their customer service. In the face of this stark reality, the research suggests that firms should focus their energies on four strategic moves to remain competitive:
1. Deep Domain Knowledge is Critical
According to the survey, the top criterion clients cite for choosing a firm is technical expertise, or an in-depth knowledge of tax law and accounting regulations. “Clients will always need accounting firms: for expertise, accuracy, and compliance” said Jason Marx, Wolters Kluwer’s CEO for Tax and Accounting North America. In fact, 44 percent of clients say that staying current on the ever-changing regulatory landscape is one of the top factors that will most impact their relationship with their existing accounting firm.
2. Use Integrated Technology to Support Client Service
Timeliness and quality of services top the list of significant factors for clients selecting a firm (37 percent). However, fewer than half (47 percent) of the firms surveyed said they currently have enough staff to meet client needs. This indicates a significant challenge for firms when it comes to meeting the expectations of clients. The survey found that successful firms with very satisfied clients use technology to streamline and automate workflows throughout the firm.
3. Improve Frequency and Quality of Client Communication
When asked about factors driving them to seek another accounting firm, 35 percent of clients cited poor communication as a key factor. The survey shows that when clients find it difficult to get answers from their own firms, they may leave to find their answers elsewhere. Notably, 75 percent of satisfied clients expect their firm to respond within 24 hours, and 62 percent of dissatisfied clients expect a response in the same time frame.
4. Offer Higher-value Services
Clients who use a wider variety of services from their tax and accounting firms are more likely to report themselves as satisfied. Seventy-six percent of those clients using four or more services reported being satisfied, in comparison to only 50 percent for those using fewer than four services. At the same time, clients who use four or more services are twice as likely to believe that a tax and accounting firm can provide significant impact to the overall success of a business. “Clients who feel they are receiving special services from their firm are far more likely to stick with that firm,” the white paper states. “In the survey, not one respondent that rated the uniqueness of the services they received from their tax and accounting firm at 4 or 5 (on a scale of 1 to 5) plans to leave its tax and accounting firm.”
At Withum, we make every effort to do our part in the client retention process: by hiring the best and brightest talent possible; by being intentional in expanding our service offerings such as those falling under Management Advisory Services; by providing education and training to our staff to keep them current on tax laws, regulations and industry knowledge; by implementing cutting-edge technology to provide world-class client service and client communications; and by conducting annual client surveys to keep a pulse on their needs. But the rest is up to you… the individual professional.
Regardless of how much pressure we are under to meet client deadlines, please be respectful of the valued relationships we have developed and nurtured with them, so that they continue to be clients of ours for many years to come. And in the event I can ever assist with a client relationship by meeting with them personally, please feel free to reach out to me.