The Power of the Instant Response

too late

Your potential buyers are beginning to expect an instant response to everything.

The 24-7, social media, always-connected world backs us up on this – but every type of company is starting to wake up to this, too.

And if your accountancy firm is not prepared to provide a response to any kind of query within about 15 minutes (and that’s kind of long), you are definitely missing out on business.

Here’s why.

The moment your prospects enquire is the ‘hottest’ moment.

This is when their problem or issue, or idea, or frustration, is top of mind.  They got a major tax bill and are very upset about it.  They are considering buying property and want to know whether they should pursue it.  Their new business has taken off massively and they have a question about it.

If you wait to respond, you’re missing that critical moment.  The frustration over the tax bill has faded.  Another accountant helped them out. They read a blog.  They viewed the property and are not sure if it is so important after all.  They ran into their brother-in-law who knows a bit about property taxes and asked him.  You know how it goes.

They are getting instant responses from the other companies they deal with.

People are used to instant responses now.  Customer service is conducted on Twitter, Facebook, Zendesk support, and live chat.  All these other companies are setting the bar high – and just because you’re an accountancy firm doesn’t make you some sort of rare and wonderful creature. You’re a business, they need a business service.  Act like the other businesses out there, not the other accountants out there.

You don’t have to solve their problem instantly.

When I say “reply”, I mean a reply. A quick email to say “Thanks, we’ve got your email! Need to check a few things quickly but we’ll be back to you tomorrow latest. In the meantime here’s a free ebook to download” – or a video to watch, or whatever.

The key is to reply. To be in touch. To connect on their timescale.  If they suddenly decide they can’t be bothered, or a family issue pops up and they don’t reply for six days, that’s on them.  But it’s on you if your firm isn’t responding for a day on your end. That makes you look bad, and they may go elsewhere.

The longer you wait, the more time they have to contact someone else.

Even an email should be replied to within 15 minutes, if at all possible.  Longer than that and they’ve already emailed four or five other firms.  Or gone on their website – and if that firm has live chat, and they have a quick conversation with a team member and get help, you’ve lost out big time.

Granted, many other accountancy firms are still in the dark ages.  But…

Just because other accountants are slow doesn’t mean you should be.

Yes, there are still a lot of accountancy firms who expect their prospects to pick up the phone and ring in the first instance.  BIG HINT: that’s really, really not the first inclination for prospects.  Unless your target market is comprised of over 60 year olds who use a Nokia 3210 and a white PC the size of a car tyre, you need to get with the new programme, and stand out from the other accountants who in several years’ time will be wondering why you’re getting all the business and they are not.

This is your big chance.

Maybe I should make that stand out.

This is your BIG CHANCE.

You can stand out now, quickly before the rest of the accountancy world really gets on board.

In September 2013, I posted a blog about my thoughts on Xero after attending Xerocon London.  In that blog, I stated this: “You’ve only got about two more years in which you can proclaim to be a new kind of accountant. After that, so many accountants will be on the bandwagon that having Xero (or a great website, or using social media well, or blogging) will not set you apart at all.”

Almost a year has gone by.  Which means you’ve got a year or so before time runs out.  I’m seeing it already – particularly, of course, with the firms we are working with, because they’re taking my advice. They are getting live chat on their website, even though they think no one will use it.  (And they’re surprised to discover that people do.)  They are blogging – and their clients and prospects are reading the blogs and are impressed with the expertise.  They are using video, Skype, Xero, Google adwords, SEO, infographics. And they are getting the leads.

So. Here are my tips for how you can ensure an instant response:

  • Monitor email constantly. Make sure your main email address is monitored by someone who is at the computer most of the day.
  • Train the team. Make sure whoever monitors that email is aware of how critical it is to reply immediately. Remember, you don’t have to reply with a detailed answer! Just a reply will do.
  • Monitor social media hourly. Have someone in the firm (or someone outsourced) who is monitoring your social media accounts on an hourly basis.  I know, I know – you may not get much social media traffic. (There are reasons for that I won’t go into here.) But if someone does send you a tweet, or a DM, or a Facebook message, or a Skype chat, they’re expecting a response within the hour (and preferably much faster).
  • Use live chat.  Ideally have someone online all the time (24-7 if possible), but at a minimum have someone who makes logging in an automatic task, and then leave it logged in all day.  Again, these people will not be answering detailed tax problems – all you need is someone to say “great question! Let me get our tax partner to come back to you – what’s your email?” (For this reason we include live chat with all our outsourced marketing packages, and we help monitor it for you.)
  • Use an out of hours mobile number.  Figure out a way to have it divert to whoever is ‘on call’, and make sure your clients and prospects know how and when to use it.  Again, you don’t have to have an instant in-depth conversation – it’s just to make sure those connecting with you know that they have been heard.
  • Set up an online appointment calendar. I was talking to William Hamilton of Smart Center in the States, and they have an online appointment calendar as part of their offering. He mentioned that just about every firm who uses it insisted at first that their clients didn’t care, didn’t want to set appointments online. Now for some of them over 60% of their clients use this rather than any other way to get in touch.

Remember, it is not about what you want.

It’s not about what you like.

It’s not even about what you think is a great idea.

It’s about what your clients like. What your prospects expect. What people use and keep using.

And what many of your prospects are really, really surprised to discover that you as an accountancy firm offer, because they thought accountants were outdated and old fashioned and behind the times.

You prove them wrong, and you’ll get more business as a result.