7 Steps To Excellent Client Service (and getting referrals)

You already know that your clients expect and deserve the best service you can provide them. But what exactly constitutes 5-star service to your clients?

This list is by no means all-inclusive, but if you exhibit these seven characteristics in your own practice, I think you are well on your way to being in the top 1% of all tax and accounting service professionals in America.

1. Maintain client contact year-round. This is one that I harp about all the time, and with good reason. Not only is maintain year-round client contact a smart marketing move, it’s also a smart customer service move. Your clients should always know that you are there for them, thinking about them, and available to help them. This is one of the most basic tenets of client relationship management, but hardly anybody does it.

2. Communicate with your clients via their preferred media. When you start working with a new client, it won’t take very long for you to identify there preferred method of communication. This could be in person, via telephone, email, snail mail, even Twitter/Facebook. Make note of this communication preference in your client database, and when you need information from a client, are running a promotion of some sort, or are just making contact as part of your ongoing touch program, use your client’s preferred communication method. They will remember that, and appreciate it.

3. Be on the lookout for opportunities for your clients. This goes beyond your fiduciary duty to your clients. What I’m really talking about here are things like potential customer referrals to your business clients. You have an intimate working knowledge of your clients’ business and personal affairs, due to the nature of the work you do. Utilize that insider knowledge to help them.

Is your client a real estate investor? Tell them about that run-down house up the street that just went into foreclosure. Is your client a butcher? Connect them with your client that is a rancher that mentioned he has too many head of livestock right now. Look for and make these connections in your client base. Even if nothing comes of it, it will mean a lot to your client that you thought of them.

4. Empower your clients with new skills. Most people pride themselves on being able to do as much for themselves as they possibly can. Showing your clients how to do things for themselves makes them feel better about themselves. This works well for you, also, if the task is something you don’t really enjoy doing or that is a low dollar per hour activity for you, such as entering transactions into QuickBooks.

This is something that most small business clients are perfectly capable of doing themselves, and that most tax professional don’t enjoy doing. Look for opportunities like this to empower your clients with new skill sets, and it will actually strengthen the value of the relationship between yourself and your client.

5. Utilize the latest technology tools to enhance your client experience. Some clients don’t want to drive to your office every time they need to drop something off to you. A secure, web-based client portal can provide an easy solution to this, and make life easier for them and you.

Surprisingly, there are still tax professionals that don’t use modern tax software to prepare client returns. This not only creates tremendous amounts of extra work for you each year, but also lengthens the time it takes for a client to get their return back. Technology allows us to provide better service to our clients, so be sure to use it where it is appropriate.

6. Help your clients achieve their goals. Going back to the fact that you have intimate knowledge of your clients’ personal and business affairs, you should also have an idea of what they are trying to accomplish in those arenas. If you don’t know their goals, then it’s a good time to ask. What obstacles are they facing in achieving that goal? Does their business have employee, marketing, sales, customer retention, shipping, inventory, or any other challenges that you could either assist in solving, or introduce them to somebody that can? Have you identified some pattern in their expenses that you could help with, in terms of cost cutting, or perhaps identifying theft?

Always be looking for ways to help your clients achieve what they want to achieve, and it will help you achieve what you want to achieve.

7. Recommend other necessary professionals to your tax clients. You cannot be all things to all people. At best, most practitioners can be top notch in three or four arenas, and that’s where most people should limit themselves. I’m often asked why I don’t offer audit representation, and the reason is simple: It would require me becoming an expert in an entire new part of the IRC and IRM, expert at working with an entire different group of people at the IRS, and expert at creating a whole new arena of solutions.

I’m well aware of my own limitations, and I’m well aware of what I don’t know. I refer out a tremendous amount of work, and suggest that you do the same. You should professionally network with other financial service professionals, including financial planners, real estate agents, mortgage loan officers, estate attorneys, bookkeepers, audit representatives, tax return preparers, etc. Basically, any financial-related specialty that is outside your core competency, you should either have somebody else in your firm that does specialize in that, or have somebody outside your firm you can refer people to.

By doing these seven things, you will be delivering five-star customer service. Your clients will love you, and you’ll have a far better working relationship with each and every one of them. The lifetime value of that client relationship will grow by doing these seven things, and you will also be handsomely rewarded with referrals from your client.