By Julian Coleman of Gusto
We all count on accountants. But for many business owners, the relationship is even more pronounced because there’s so much at stake. According to the AICPA, 52 percent of company decision makers see their accountant as someone they trust, the highest rating out of all finance professions. When relationships are built out of something that significant, it can be a lot of pressure to keep it rock solid, all the time.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to turn your client interactions into lifelong connections. Here’s where to start:
Unbelievable customer service is all about listening to what your clients need, and then finding ways to help them get there.
Start by thoroughly researching your client’s space and how their business fits into the larger landscape. Arm yourself with this knowledge before every meeting so you can have a richer understanding of where they’re coming from.
Then, show them that you’re listening at every step.
For example, if your client mentions that they want to dig into a topic, follow up with resources that may help. Let’s say you notice that a time-consuming part of their business can be improved with software or some other service. Send over a concise list of what their options are and which ones you think would benefit their business.
Finally, take advantage of opportunities where you can get to know them better. After a meeting, treat them to coffee, lunch, or a quick walk around the block. These small actions can make a big impression on your clients, all while showing that you genuinely care about their wellbeing.
Be honest and open
Running a business isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. When a real issue surfaces, your clients need you to be honest about what’s happening so you can work together to reach a solution.
Did you encounter a glitch while submitting a form? Tell your client why, what you need from them, and what you’ll do to fix it. By glossing over information, your clients’ trust may falter. That’s why it’s so important to share as much as you can—good, bad, and everything in between.
Widening that communication channel also means making sure your clients know exactly how to get in touch with you for all immediate and not-so-immediate questions.
Have a reset meeting
When your client first started working with you, they were probably in a completely different stage than where they are today. To see how you can better adapt to their needs, set up a meeting to revisit their business goals and explore what you can do to take them to the next level.
Introduce the reset concept by explaining how you’ve seen their business evolve and that you want to help them be successful in their new stage. Taking a more holistic approach will enable you to provide your clients with the kind of service they’ve only dreamed about.
Educate and create learning opportunities
Be on the lookout for moments where you can teach your clients new things.
If you come across an interesting blog post or conference, send it their way. This knowledge sharing also translates to how you communicate about their business. For example, rather than emailing them a tangle of numbers every month, summarize the points in simple language and explain how you arrived at the conclusion.
Another idea is to create opportunities for clients to learn from one another. Similarities are bound to pop up while working with so many different people, and by connecting clients who are in similar industries or stages, it will enable them to share tips and best practices. You want your client base to feel like a community, and facilitating introductions is the best way to foster that feeling.
Do whatever you can
As your relationships develop, your clients will start to expect more from you. This could come in the form of sticky add-on services like time tracking or payroll, and some things you may not even knew you could offer. Don’t let these expectations scare you. Instead, use it as an opportunity to create more value by adding back-office services to your toolkit.
If you think they’re too time-intensive or complex, explore solutions that other accountants are already using. Many of these services don’t require a huge time commitment and can scale depending on how large your clients are.
When you load up your services with these tools, it will increase retention and make your work even more valuable in the eyes of your clients.
Now that you have these five lessons under your belt, you’ll be better equipped to take care of the incredible people you serve. As a result, your client relationships will not only become more meaningful—they’ll stand the test of time.
More about Julian…
Julian Coleman is on the partner advising team at Gusto, where he enables accountants to provide world-class service to their small business clients. You can learn more about the Gusto Partner Program here. Get in touch with Julian by email or on Twitter at @julianwithgusto.