How to provide great customer service to your practice clients
Excellent customer service is essential if you want to retain and grow your client base. Being friendly, anticipating your clients' needs and responding promptly are just some of the ways you can build a sense of loyalty. But how exactly should you put these principles into practice? Here are five tips to help you give your clients a positive experience.
Get to know your clients
Good communication is one of the essential skills for a successful accountant or bookkeeper. With clear and open dialogue, your clients are likely to see you as trustworthy and approachable, enabling you to better understand and support their business.
The ability to listen effectively will help you understand what your client wants to achieve, allowing you to deliver a better service and strengthen your relationship. You’ll also learn what information is important to them and whether they prefer to be updated by email, by phone or face to face.
Your relationship will develop over time, so make sure to check in on a regular basis and ensure you’re both aligned on the goals for their business.
No one wants to be ignored when they have a question or a pressing problem, so prompt responses are key to providing good customer service. To give yourself time to think, you could set up an automatic email acknowledging the client’s message and explaining when they can expect a response from you - but don’t keep them waiting too long.
Depending on the size of your practice, you may want to ensure that someone on your team is able to monitor your inbox or respond quickly via phone. Remember to keep your responses jargon-free and empathise with the client if there’s a problem.
Great customer service can mean anticipating your clients’ needs before they ask you for help. Your clients are counting on you as a trusted advisor and they won’t necessarily know about the latest changes from HMRC, for example.
An example of this is the introduction of Making Tax Digital for Income Tax Self Assessment (MTD for ITSA), which is set to bring significant changes to the way many of your clients store and submit their financial records. This is a topic you can share with your clients ahead of time - the initiative will change the way many clients work and you’ll need to think about how to best prepare them for it.
Own your mistakes
Nobody is perfect, so mistakes will inevitably happen from time to time. It might be daunting, but you should let your client know about any errors as quickly as possible. Whether you’ve missed a deadline or forgotten to reply to an email, it’s important to take responsibility, apologise and communicate a solution.
Your client is more likely to stay with your practice if you listen carefully, ask questions to clarify any misunderstandings and outline the steps you’ll take to resolve the problem. Don’t be afraid to ask for more time if you need to collect your thoughts - it’s better to respond within a few hours than to rush out a solution that may not work.
Strong organisational skills can help you and your practice to manage multiple clients effectively and provide great customer service.
One way to get organised and provide a better experience for your clients is to break down your projects into clear, manageable steps and create a workflow to help you automate repeatable tasks. It could be useful to set up alerts to keep on top of key client deadlines.
Accounting software, like FreeAgent, can also make it faster and simpler for clients to share their data with you. FreeAgent’s mobile app lets your clients snap photos of receipts and record their expenses on the go.
Having a clear view of this financial information can help to prevent any unnecessary back and forth, freeing up valuable time for your practice and providing a better customer experience for your clients.