Many of our CPA friends will be meeting with a large number of clients over the next several months. To maximize this face-to-face time, take the opportunity to find out how your clients feel they are being served, what your team may be able to do better, and what additional services you could provide them to enhance your relationships and keep them from seeking the services from a competitor. Periodically taking the temperature of your clients is vitally important for client satisfaction and retention and may uncover some critical new engagement needs, too!
While many firms cite a lack of time, “know-how,” and funds as barriers to implementing a survey process, we believe that the benefits of surveying outweigh the obstacles. Surveying clients:
- Provides you with an opportunity to promote your firm’s brand and stay “top of mind” for your clients
- Enables you to keep client data current
- Gives you input to improve your business practices
- Increases the number of communications you have with your clients and allows you to better understand their needs
- Generates new opportunities for your firm
- Helps shape your service and product initiative mix so you can make better strategy decisions
- Uncovers potential internal issues, such as the need for staff training or client education on the services you provide
- Provides a means to measure satisfaction and uncover issues that you can address for clients
While there are several types of surveys to consider, notably phone, internet-based, in-person, and paper-based via direct mail, in-person surveys are a great option for busy season implementation.
In-person surveys (as well as phone surveys) are typically the best ways to ensure a high response rate and uncover real client issues. They serve as opportunities to sell firm products and services, too, because of the personal interaction they induce. Consider starting your survey questions this busy season with our “Keep, Start, Stop” method shared by my colleague, Michelle Baca. Then, depending on your goals, add questions to touch on specific service lines for your firm and areas of satisfaction you wish to measure. In a future blog, we’ll talk about some survey creation tips to help you think through your list of questions and how best to employ them.
One potential “down side” to an in-person survey is that clients may feel guarded when discussing their service perceptions with someone from within your firm – especially their direct service provider. You may want to consider using an administrative person or other staff member to provide a “safe,” independent person for your client to speak with. In addition, you may consider a different type of follow-up survey, such as an internet-based or telephone survey, to query your clients ongoingly about their satisfaction and potentially gain more candid feedback. Even though you may think you’re hearing it all in the client meeting, we find that the perceived anonymity of talking to an “outsider” or typing responses into a web-based survey often yields more “real” data from your clients, which you can then use to improve the service you provide to them.
Use busy season client surveys to measure how you are serving clients, uncover additional opportunities to assist them, and enhance your client relationships!
Be sure to comment to share your favorite survey questions, how your clients have reacted when asked for their feedback, or what you were able to do with the information you gained from a client survey.