Every business wants happy customers. Your accountancy firm wants happy clients. And no matter what size your business, you go out of your way (we hope) to emphasise how much you care about providing great service to keep clients happy.
If you look at the branding for most small businesses you’d be forgiven for thinking that the quality of customer service is always, without a doubt, brilliant, engaging and leaves the consumer with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.
But dig a little deeper and you’ll soon realise this isn’t quite true…
A shockingly low expectation of our customer experience
Take a long, hard look at the service you’ve received as a customer. The reality is a little different to the utopian dream painted in most marketing, isn’t it? And Peter Shankman, author of Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans puts it very succinctly right at the start of chapter four of the book:
“The general expectation of any given customer in any given service situation is that they’ll be treated like crap and will leave neutral at best, unhappy at worst.”
That’s a pretty cutting assessment of customer service! But if we’re honest with ourselves, we know it’s a true assessment. In any real-world interaction with a business:
- Our expectations are generally low.
- We expect our customer experience to be poor, bad or (possibly) terrible.
- If the service is worse than we’d expected we’re indifferent to that.
- And, worst of all, we just carry on taking it, accepting poor service and never feeling great about the customer experience we’ve had.
So, if we expect crap, what does that mean for our potential clients?
Make it personal and be one level above crap
This may sound like a pretty low ambition (and, in a way, it is), but all you need to do is be one level above crap. If you can improve on the ‘meh!’ feeling most of us have when dealing with a business, then you’re halfway to turning that person into a loyal customer and advocate – or as Shankman terms them, a ‘zombie loyalist’.
And the key to turning a ‘meh!’ into a ‘woo hoo!’ is pretty damn simple:
You treat your clients better.
It sounds so straightforward, doesn’t it, but we’re actually pretty bad at it in the 21st century. There are plenty of reasons why we’re bad at service: an impersonal use of technology, inflexible corporate ideals, alienated employees and consumers who’d rather shop online than face to face being just a few.
But the missing element in all of these problems is something very simple.
We’ve stopped making it personal.
We’ve stopped putting our heart and soul into getting to know our clients. We’ve stopped building personal, one-to-one relationships with the people who use our services.
If a client thinks you genuinely care about delivering great service to them (and them uniquely, as an individual), they’ll be back for more.
And a happy client, who feels connected to you, personally, as a representative of the business, will come back time and time again – spending money gladly because they like you, they like the service they get and they LOVE your business.
A few tips on delivering awesome customer service
Shankman goes into great detail about how you can create an army of zombie loyalists by delivering totally amazing customer service (go read the book, you won’t regret it).
So here are a few short tips from chapter four on how to truly delight your clients, in your accountancy firm:
- Underpromise and overdeliver – If you tell a client you can get their tax return done in 3 months after the year end and then deliver it in 2, brilliantly, they’ll be delighted (and will tell their friends how astoundingly good you are).
- Hire nice people – Your employees are your front line with your clients. Pleasant, happy people that are happy to get the job done, and go the extra mile, are far more likely to pass on that happiness to your clients.
- Put people over profit – Giving one client a discount because they’re a regular may cost you a few quid. But they’ll come back again and again, and bring their friends – so in the long-term, you’re actually making money.
- Your basic product and service has to be awesome – You can do as much wacky marketing and PR as you want, but your core service has to be terrific, and all your services the same. Get the basics right first.
- Observe and act accordingly – If you see a client who’s looking in need of help, jump in and assist them. Make them feel loved and show them that you really do want to help.
- Impress by being nice – Hire employees that understand how being nice can really help deliver an amazing experience (and how being offhand and unhelpful can totally undermine all your efforts).
- Take the time to do something special and personal – If you deliver something extra, something tailored to the client that they weren’t expecting, they’ll be overjoyed. We love it when someone takes the time to do something bespoke for us. Send a gift. A commiseration on the loss of the ‘big game’. A birthday card…for their one-year-old daughter. Their favourite wine. Make it about them.
- Be passionate about what you do – If you and your team have a genuine, deep-seated passion for your products and services, that rubs off on clients.
- Make it personal – Automated emails have their place, but generic marketing does not. Wherever you can, be personal and start building a one-on-one relationship between you and your clients. Relationships sell more products, not generic eBooks.
- Say thank you and give away free stuff – Do you have a client who always comes back and will always spend their hard-earned cash with you? Give them something to say thank you – everyone loves a freebie and we all like to feel valued.
Let us know how you get on in your accountancy firm, and the new appreciation that you get from your clients!