Although recent surveys have shown CPA firm growth at around 6%, many firms struggle to grow. Surprisingly, client service problems are only one factor holding these firms back. Some firms don’t have the technology infrastructure in place to support growth, and others don’t have enough staff. But these aren’t unrelated problems. In fact, a firm’s technology infrastructure directly affects the firm’s staffing as well as client satisfaction.
A recent whitepaper, Game Plan for the Future: Are you and your clients in sync, looked at factors surrounding client expectations. Surveyed clients revealed their top selection criteria for choosing a firm. Fortunately, many of these conditions can be improved through technology. Solve these five client service problems to improve your growth.
Service isn’t timely
According to the survey, the number one factor in firm selection is timeliness of service. Deadlines are crucial in accounting work, but client service can suffer even if you meet compliance deadlines. If you aren’t responsive enough to client questions and requests, your clients may jump ship. If your work isn’t timely, filing an extension may be the least of your concerns.
Firms that can get client work done quickly are at an advantage. High-performing firms are more likely to have integrated systems that work together to improve efficiency. Cutting out redundant tasks and automating low-value work goes a long way towards getting the work delivered faster.
Deliverables contain mistakes
Staffing shortages play an important role in client service and firm selection. Less than half of surveyed firms reported having enough staff to meet client needs. Not only will short-staffed firms struggle to perform work in a timely manner, but they may also struggle to produce the quality work that clients expect.
Attracting the best staff is an important way to attract and retain the best clients. Since frazzled staff often take shortcuts or make mistakes, building efficiency through integration and automation can also help improve quality.
The firm doesn’t understand my needs
Getting to know your clients’ needs is a cornerstone of providing good service. But many firms are challenged by lack of the one crucial resource needed: Time. Accountants play many roles, and many of these responsibilities conflict with the need to strengthen client relationships. Administrative headaches and IT hassles all distract from client service.
A well-thought out electronic workflow can reduce or eliminate these distractions. Finding files is faster, billing and invoicing is easier, and monitoring project statuses takes much less time. In addition, cloud-based software can reduce maintenance needs so you can hang up your IT hat or re-focus IT resources on more valuable work.
The firm has out of date information
Half of all firms have to update client information in more than 3 places if a client changes their name or address. This process is vulnerable to errors. Not being able to reach a client because of an out of date phone number can be frustrating. However, sending a deliverable to an old address can be devastating to a client relationship.
Designating a database of record for your client data is a good step towards ensuring you have accurate records. Even better is to centralize all or most of your client data in a single database. With the right software architecture, multiple systems can tap into this single source of client data.
Fees seem out of line with value
In the age of DIY tax returns, many clients have come to question the value of the services they receive from their accountant. While the value of your work may be obvious to you, you also need to communicate it to your clients. Unfortunately, in many cases, manual processes and workflow roadblocks lower the value of your work.
Automation, like scanning in documents and flowing data into a tax return, can help firms cut out low-value work. In turn, this frees up time to provide more advisory services that clients value most. Providing self-service tools like portals can also add value for clients.
Client service problems are easy to understand, but CPA firm growth can be tricky. Learn five strategic moves your firm should be making by downloading the Game Plan for the Future whitepaper today.