Tax and accounting professionals are increasingly being targeted by other pros – and other digital options – hoping to poach their clients. From DIY options to Intuit Live series and upstarts like Pilot, independent professionals need to start focusing on one of the most important metrics of them all: client retention. Let's start by identifying the reasons you might lose a client or see reduced revenue:
- Lower Price
- Promise of better financial result
- Lack of technology or poor user experience
- Lack of responsiveness
- Overall customer satisfaction
- Out grow your knowledge or capabilities
- DIY alternatives
- Client moves out of state
- Business shuts down because of poor results
- Client downgrades service level
Churn is closely connected to client satisfaction. As unhappy clients leave, you lose money. At the same time, the turnover rate is an indicator of how satisfied your clients are overall with your services. It is more important now than ever to focus on the client experience. Tax and accounting practices are realizing that a client's experience, both online and offline, determines how much they will spend with you and what they will share about you online. A recent Digital Trends report found that 45% of companies have content and experience management as their number one priority. According to a survey by American Express, more than half of Americans have scrapped a planned purchase or transaction because of bad service. Even more importantly, companies with great experiences have a 16% price premium on services, according to PwC. But how are leading CPA, EA, and tax accounting practices adapting to improving the client experience? They are realizing that having expertise alone is no longer the main competitive advantage. Having a stellar five-star reputation across your entire user experience, from brand awareness through engagement, is a differentiator in practices that are thriving versus those that are churning. We have identified the following 8 traits of our most successful practices who excel at client retention:
1. Maintaining constant contact
This is easy if you have an automated email newsletter with weekly blog posts and social media sharing. Focus on sharing content about life events, both business and personal. It is the best way to identify issues that can be planned before it is too late. Be consistent with your communications: We have found our best performing practices see more referrals and generate more year-round income because of their consistent touchpoints. It is part of going above and beyond your competition that pays off in high retention.
2. Making it easy for clients to communicate with you
Have clear contact information on your website, directory sites, and email signatures to make it easier for your clients to access you. At the same time, make sure you take security seriously. Do not send private documents via email. Do use SSL certificates and reCAPTCHA on your website. Utilize a secure portal that includes video meeting capabilities, online appointment scheduling, and secure messaging features. Don’t make it hard on clients by using old school snail mail or paper copies that require hand signatures on engagement letters. Do use eSign where possible.
3. Being responsive
Responding quickly, even if it is just to acknowledge you received the inquiry, goes a long way. A recent survey by CountingWorks of 2,500 entrepreneurs and high net worth individuals found that responsiveness was the third most important attribute in an accountant, with knowledge and trustworthiness coming in at #1 and #2 respectively.
4. Aiming for transparency
No one likes to be nickel and dimed, and many clients will pay you more if there is a clear picture of the value and services that you are providing. The trend toward value pricing (packaged services) is not going away, and if anything, is accelerating. A human-feeling website that uses packaged pricing can easily boost your income with existing clients. No one wants to think about their relationship with you being on par with an attorney. If you don’t want your clients looking at their watch to cut conversations short, or even not sharing all the details needed to have a successful outcome, then be transparent.
5. Embracing digital experiences
Competitors are starting to establish new categories when marketing their accounting services. The view of an accountant with a pocket protector and a calculator has become outdated. Your clients expect the same quality of a digital experience from you as they receive from Amazon, VRBO and Apple. Utilize intake forms, eSign, and secure portals to enhance the user experience.
6. Building a mobile-friendly, speedy website with a clear value proposition
Many tax and accounting professionals try to use copy and marketing messages that are written in their terminology, rather than for their target audience. You want to highlight pain points and communicate value. Consumers take to the web when deciding whom to work with. They find educational content, read influencers posts, and make buying decisions everyday based on these digital signals. Additionally, Google has made mobile the most important part of their algorithm. Modern websites need to be simple, clear, and fast loading. So what does this have to do with client retention? If your website looks like it is from the 80’s, does not look good on mobile, and isn’t loaded with helpful content, your clients will notice and might be less loyal.
7. Having a solid five-star review profile
We like to say that “What Google thinks about you is your reputation.” We work closely with clients to help them attract numerous five-star reviews across multiple marketplaces and profiles like Google My Business, TaxBuzz, and CountingWorks (where profiles should be fully optimized). Google your brand and decide if you would hire you, based on what you find. Maybe? No? What happens if your client Googles your brand and sees a review profile at 4 or lower? They will start questioning why they work with you. Are they missing something? Why are the other clients so upset? Prioritizing your review profile across sites is absolutely crucial.
8. Being likable & showing some personality
One of the greatest testaments to the power of a tax and accounting professional’s relationship with their clients was demonstrated at my uncle’s funeral. He built up a successful practice and enjoyed an amazing relationship with his clients, who looked forward to seeing him at each visit. At his funeral, the room was packed with clients who came to pay their respect. That doesn't happen in every industry – and it’s testament to the intimate nature of a tax accounting client. By putting your personality out into your marketing material, it will make you more likable and dramatically improve your retention rates. Successful tax and accounting practices are built on trust. If there is no trust in a relationship between two people, the relationship dies. As a CPA, EA, or tax and accounting professional, your ultimate goal is to earn the trust of your clients to drive more successful financial outcomes.By focusing on the client first, you are setting yourself and your practice up for successes. It starts with optimizing every touchpoint – from how the prospect discovers your brand to onboarding to your engagement through ongoing communication. Having a hole in even one part of this cycle can enable unwanted and expensive churn.
If you have questions about improving client retention or growing your tax and accounting practice, we’re here to help! Contact us today at 1-800-442-2477 x3 or set up some time to speak with one of our digital marketing experts. Schedule a free demo of CountingWorks PRO.