Providing a great client experience is a key component to any accounting or bookkeeping firm’s success. Cementing the foundation of a great client experience is trust. Trust is vital for improving productivity and delivering results as an effective business partner.
As Patti Scharf of Catching Clouds explains:
“Good business is based on good relationships, and I can’t think of many other industries beyond accounting which has a stronger need for trust on which to build that relationship. Money is a highly personal issue, and believe me, financial issues are close to people’s hearts, and you can’t keep a lot of secrets from your accountants. We’re digging around in your underwear drawer for sure.”
As such, it’s critical to establish a great relationship with your clients upfront, and to actively nurture these relationships to forge deeper levels of trust. Here are some seemingly insignificant things you might be forgetting to do that can cause your clients to lose trust in you and your firm’s services.
Forgetting to actively listen
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
- Stephen R. Covey (from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)
Next time you’re having a conversation with your client, really listen to what they’re saying. Be aware of your body language – checking your phone or avoiding eye contact as they speak can make it seem like you’re not paying attention.
One way to be a more skilled listener is to take notes and ask follow up questions. Even if you feel that you perfectly understand what they’re saying, asking questions will show that you care and that you’ve truly heard what they have to say.
Between endless work distractions, the attention economy, and our fast-paced, technologically driven world, it’s easy to understand why human listening skills have decayed. Your paying clients should not have to battle for your attention, however – this is something they deserve and that is critical to showing that you care. The more you demonstrate client care, the more you’ll be able to inspire trust.
Forgetting to discuss the future
“It’s not a big, hairy audacious goal until it’s so outrageous that other people can’t help but question your sanity. When other people are unsure about your company’s ability to achieve the goal you set, you’ll know you’re going in the right direction.”
- Matt Rissell, CEO, Tsheets (from How Big, Hairy and Audacious is Your Company?)
Future planning is one element of business that is often not prioritized. Usually, we get so preoccupied with what’s going on now. Pushing planning meetings or only discussing your client’s long-term business objectives at the surface-level can send the signal that you’re only interested in working with them for the short-term.
Actively discussing the future, setting goals, and providing your expert insight as to how they can achieve these goals will establish trust with your clients because it shows that you’re truly invested in their growth. You’ve made it your responsibility to help them get where they want to be. Don’t shy away from “big, hairy, and audacious” goals – sharing a big picture vision demands big goals and demonstrates your commitment to their future.
Forgetting to execute influence (instead of authority)
“The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.”
- Kenneth H. Blanchard
As an advisor, your clients look to you for leadership. They expect you to be able to help them overcome challenges and resolve business issues. Saying “no” too often and/or having a “my way or the highway” attitude can breach trust with your clients because you’re creating a power dynamic in which you have the upper hand. Trust goes both ways, and being too authoritative also suggests that you don’t trust your client’s decision-making capabilities.
If a client suggests an idea or solution that isn’t going to drive results (or might potentially harm their business), it’s your job to influence them as to why it’s not in their best interest. Discuss it with them and share your previous experience to show them why a certain action should or should not be taken.
Forgetting to say “thank you”
"The way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement."
- Charles Schwab
Once again, this comes down to demonstrating client care. One of the easiest ways to breach trust with your clients is through a lack of acknowledgement, which can make your firm appear apathetic.
Saying “thank you” goes a long way. In fact, A 2013 study by Cicero found that 50% of employees believe being thanked by managers not only improved their relationship, but also built trust with their higher-ups.
This can certainly translate to client relationships. Showing your appreciation for their performance (as well as seemingly insignificant things – their dedication to their business, their quick response time, etc.) will further demonstrate that you care, which will help to inspire deeper trust.
Forgetting to be fully transparent
“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”
- Thomas Jefferson
“Transparency” means different things to different people. When it comes to client relationships, it’s better to err on the side of being over-transparent (with security considerations, of course).
Provide your clients with as much insight as possible into the accounting or bookkeeping process. Ensure they understand exactly what types of cloud accounting software you use, where you’re storing their sensitive documents, and who has access to this information. Consider using project management software so stakeholders have clear insight into what you’re working on and are given the option to receive regular notifications regarding your workflows.
Radical transparency can be scary at first. However, demonstrating that you have nothing to hide and allowing your client to set their own level of involvement can reduce tension in client relationships and, of course, deepen their trust.
Solidify trust for a better client experience
Every client relationship is different. Some clients will require more active listening, more future-planning, more influence, more appreciation, and more transparency than others in order to solidify trust.
It’s also important to note that trust is fragile and requires consistent reinforcement, regardless of where a client’s level of trust currently stands. If a client experience is the sum of all of their interactions with your firm, ensure trust building is a primary concern for any and all interactions – even those that seem insignificant. After all, it’s the little things that will end up making a big difference.
Improve your client experience by building trust. Learn more actionable tips in our free whitepaper, 5 Steps to Building Trust with Your Clients.
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