Improving client satisfaction is a key goal for many CPA firms. However, what firms think clients want and what clients actually want sometimes diverge. A recent whitepaper titled “Game Plan for the Future: Are You and Your Clients in Sync?” looked at survey responses from firms and clients. The conclusions drawn can help firms ensure they will continue to meet client needs down the road.
Clients who participated in the survey cited “Increasing regulatory complexity” as the number one factor that will impact their relationships with their CPA in the next 5 years. This was only the #5 factor cited by firms, however. This discrepancy is most likely because mastering regulatory complexity is what CPAs do best. Secondary factors outside their primary areas of expertise can distract firms from their core business. As a first step, the whitepaper stresses the need to “remember your roots” and “execute the basics well.”
So what are the factors that pull firms away from the basics and endanger their client relationships?
The end product you produce for a client may be a tax return but the work that goes into creating that document comprises more than just a tax compliance system. A digital document management system helps you organize and find the information you need. A workflow system allows you to balance work within the firm and meet deadlines. And a time and billing system that captures your work as you do it brings money into the firm faster. Integrating all of these technologies can solve many problems all at once, freeing up time for the core business.
Increased focus on client service
Client demands are increasing as personal technology makes 24/7 on-demand service a reality in many sectors. Giving clients self-service tools like portals can reduce communication problems, while other technologies can eliminate some of the hassles that commonly frustrate your clients. For example, a document management system can help you answer client inquiries faster. Billing by project can help clients understand the value you provide. In addition, automation can reduce redundant, low-value work and make your processes more streamlined for quicker client service.
With less than half of firms reporting they have enough staff to meet client needs, it’s easy to see how talent management can interfere with the basic functions of a firm. Keeping staff happy is equally important as keeping clients happy. Staff satisfaction can be a key indicator about the health of a firm. So what makes staff happy? Similar to clients wanting self-service tools, staff need tools that allow them to complete their work proactively and without hassles. Giving staff better visibility into results of the work they do and eliminating low-value or redundant work can make a big difference.
Digital mobility opportunities
Digital mobility is no longer a “nice to have” feature offered by the most leading edge firms. Mobile technology has saturated our lives and the lives of your staff and clients. Staff will no longer be satisfied being chained to a desk for long hours during evenings and weekends. Flexible work opportunities are now the norm for CPA firms, whether they are answering the occasional email while on the go or working full-time from a home office. Your ability to offer these opportunities will affect your staffing situation as well as your client satisfaction.
To learn more about getting your firm in sync with client expectations, download the whitepaper: Game Plan for the Future: Are You and Your Clients in Sync?