According to their in-flight magazine, Qantas has launched new technology which ‘calculates thousands of possible routes in an instant, crunching huge amounts of data on wind patterns, altitudes, speeds and everything else you can imagine’. Apparently, by varying flight paths due to weather, planes burn a lot less fuel and arrive earlier. Sounds like a good use of data to benefit the airline and their customers.
How can accountants use data to improve their clients’ experience and strengthen their own business?
A starting point is to ask your clients about their needs, opinions and aspirations but the traditional ‘customer survey’ has become dated. Frequent, brief, punchy interactions with clients provide a smarter way to collect data. Panalitix, through our ClientBuilder solution, is at the forefront of this trend so let’s look at some best practices when reaching out to clients:
1. DON’T REACH OUT UNLESS YOU PLAN TO ACT ON THE RESULTS
This sounds obvious… but asking questions alone is not enough. Failing to act on the results will create a negative impression especially when the feedback is clear.
2. HAVE THE RIGHT PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THE PROCESS
Optimizing customer relationships is not an administrative function. Setting the strategy, monitoring the data and acting intelligently on the results make this a strategic initiative. Ensure the influencers are at the table throughout the process. Engage your extended team in the solutions because people on the frontline often have insights into what works best for clients.
3. QUANTIFY THE BUSINESS PROBLEM
What is the cost of unhappy clients in your business? If they take their business elsewhere, you lose the revenue, any chance of referrals and there may be reputational risk. Only fixing the problems that clients complain about is a short-sighted tactic that also requires time and money from your business. Losing clients can also affect team morale.
It’s important to put numbers around this so you can set targets and measure your progress.
4. FOCUS ON WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO THE CLIENT, NOT YOU.
There can be a mismatch between what your client’s value and what you THINK they value. You may think they care deeply about your qualifications, how you maintain confidentiality, competitive fee levels and your broad service offering. But clients are more likely to care about the availability of the Partner to do the work, transparency in fees (versus lower fees), quick response times and a focus on their business future (versus historical financial statements).
The point is you need information on the topics that matter to clients because that’s where changes you make will have the most impact.
5. BE BRIEF, BUT FREQUENT
Traditional client surveys comprised dozens of questions and could take an hour to complete. Not anymore. Five to ten questions is a good guide and you should repeat this monthly or quarterly. Think of this as a ‘conversation’, not an ‘event’.
6. GIVE EACH INTERACTION A VERY SPECIFIC FOCUS
Ask about a recent project you completed. Or an event the client attended. Perhaps you want to investigate the professionalism of your team members or their knowledge of the client’s business. Maybe it’s more about your communication style or promptness of responding. Or the accuracy of your work. Whatever the case, don’t be too general.
7. MAP THE CLIENT’S JOURNEY AND FOCUS ON IMPORTANT TOUCH POINTS
Think about how a client interacts with your firm from inception right through to completion of a project. Reviewing your website, signing contracts, starting a project, completing a project, receiving an invoice and renewing a contract are examples of important milestones which can be neglected but where simple improvements can make a big difference.
8. NOT ALL QUESTIONNAIRES NEED TO BE ABOUT YOU
There is a time to ask about the client’s business, e.g. their goals, growth plans, hiring plans, fundraising plans etc. But think carefully what you will do with this information. How will you add value to the client if you know these answers?
9. USE WELL-ESTABLISHED RESEARCH TECHNIQUES
Not surprisingly, gathering and analysing data is a complex subject best left to experts. A badly worded questionnaire will not yield results and will waste time. It may also look amateur to the client who will not be motivated to provide a response.
10. DON’T ASK QUESTIONS YOU KNOW (OR SHOULD KNOW) THE ANSWERS TO
It’s irritating when you’re asked for basic (but important) information such as your name, how long you have been a client, what services you buy, the location or industry your business is based in, and so on. Remember the respondents are doing YOU a favor, not the other way around.
11. CAREFULLY SELECT WHAT YOU SEND TO WHICH CLIENTS
If you want to investigate how well you ‘onboard’ new clients, ask clients who have recently gone through that process, not the clients you signed up a decade ago. You may want to consider different questionnaires deployed to different categories of client so you can gather more data quickly.
12. TIMING CAN BE IMPORTANT
Some data suggests that open and click-through rates are highest on Monday, Friday and Sunday in that order. There’s also debate around how long you should allow for clients to respond and getting the balance right is important.
You can entice customers to respond, perhaps with a discount, a giveaway, an account credit or even a bottle of wine. Yes, some responses may be compromised but that will be offset by a hike in response rates.
So… over to you to make your client’s experience truly first-class.
You might give ClientBuilder a try which uses expertly crafted templates to gather data and identify solutions to upgrade your clients’ experience. And these solutions are backed up by powerful content in the LearningHub. Most of all, this is a process. Rome wasn’t built in a day, analytical tools for airlines take years to develop and ensuring brilliant experiences for your clients will also take time.