I’ve been involved in some interesting LinkedIn discussions with Accountants of late and how they see clients and how they canvas them.
Coupling that with seeing numerous examples of client feedback (almost always very cheap and hardly ever cheerful)… well, here is the result, a blog post specifically for Accountants and hopefully some valuable advice.
Firstly, if you want to survey your clients but don’t want to hear negatives, don’t want to commit to doing it properly, don’t want to action changes from the insight you gain… please, save yourself time and don’t survey your clients. It’s much easier and much less painful.
Secondly… “Are you happy?” Please don’t send a postcard to your clients with that question on. What do you expect to get back? It’s a waste of trees, your clients don’t have chance to tell it like it is and the cost of deploying something like that is expensive for very little return. And does it really send a signal to your clients that you care?
Think about it… a one question survey is the feedback equivalent of you delivering a single sheet of paper to your clients with just their sales figure on and nothing else. It’s incomplete and gives no insight at all.
Thirdly… Shy away from ready made surveys and questionnaires. Yes they may be easier and yes they may be quicker. But they don’t reflect your practice. They don’t account for your decision making processes, your management structure, the services and style with which you work with your clients. Take a little time and do it right. You help your clients plan don’t you? You tell them planning is important. The same applies for client surveys.
Fourthly… Don’t just do it once and never again. The value of management accounts is that you understand in a fairly timely fashion what is going on and you can change things accordingly. Well before cash is received, before invoices are sent, before services and products are delivered, and before orders are placed, some considerable time before… a client is forming opinion. Every day. Every day their views change for the worse and for the better.
A client survey gives you just as much, if not more actionable business information that can be acted on in a timely fashion before its too late. Use it to follow trends, to test ideas, to benchmark service. Can you really do that with a simple one question postcard?
Fifthly… take the time to be different. Since the advent of AVN, Ranone, 2020, UK200 and all of the myriad of accounting umbrella groups supporting accountants the order of the day has been template driven programmes with a token logo.
I wish it wasn’t the case (and as a previous life in Accountancy and consulting I’m qualified to say this), but the differentiation in the Accountancy sector is borderline nil. Yes there are buzzwords of adding value and being proactive, but everyone uses them and difference is something you feel and experience, not a buzzword thats rolled out when appropriate.
Be different. Ask your clients how to be different. What they want in their business, what their challenges are, how you can best support them. You might just find yourself enhancing your reputation and unlocking new revenues in the process delivering just what your clients need.
And finally… please, please, please… if you do a survey, if you ask your clients what they really think, it’s imperative you take the good and the bad squarely on the chin and you act. Not only do you act, but you communicate.
Tell your clients you’ve heard them, tell your clients you’re devising projects to change based on what they’ve shared with you and tell them thank you.
And in due course they will thank you for it.