4 Tools to Improve Your Client Retention Rateby
The steps you take to keep a client should start the moment you onboard someone new. Client retention comes down to a few crucial factors, says Will Baker of BaCo Tech: Having the right accounting software and other tools in place, and ensuring you're engaging in quality interactions with each client. Here, he offers expert tips to help you improve in both of these areas.
When a new client comes on board, there is a lot to figure out. A client could be behind on taxes, or they could have had some accounting personnel leave their company and now are scrambling. In other cases, they could have unexpected tax issues that they need help navigating. In all of this, one thing that should never be put on the back burner is the CPA-client relationship. This is such a crucial part of client retention and creating a successful relationship, but it can be difficult to navigate. However, there are ways you can perfect this strategy.
Getting started the right way is the most important part of this whole process. Establishing the terms of your relationship with your client and taking the lead from the onset will help them have more confidence in you to assist them in navigating whatever they may face. To jumpstart a strong relationship with your clients, you should have clear documentation of your process, know what market you’re interested in serving, and be clear about your expectations from the beginning. This ensures clients feel confident about doing business with you and your firm.
Tools for Improving Client Relationships
CPA-Client relationships are not only created in the office. There is a lot of work CPAs do behind the scenes as well. Clear communication and planning need to be done in order to foster the positive relationship you began in person. Emails and Zoom calls won’t cut it, either. Those are great things, and you should utilize your resources, but consider additional tools to improve your clients experience with you.
1. Communication Tools: Investing in communication tools outside of “phone and email” are perfect for making sure you and your client can discuss things openly, even when they can’t come to you. Slack is a chat tool that has something called “workspaces.” Our workspace here at BaCo consists of the employees with a few group chats of sorts that we communicate through. You can also perform many other functions within Slack. For instance, you can create different workspaces for each client to help manage content, communication and anything else you would need. Slack allows you to separate each workspace, too: In other words, when you create one with your client, you won’t have to give them access to the rest of your team or other channels.
2. Scheduling Tools: We use Calendly, a resource that makes scheduling and managing your calendar easier. It has many features that allow you to schedule meetings quickly and efficiently, so it’s a stress-free experience. Calendly can be synced with all of your calendars, so it’s nearly impossible to double-book multiple clients. You’ll never have to worry about constantly going back and forth with your client to find an exact time. We even sync Calendly with some current or new client contact forms on our website, so when they submit the form, they can immediately schedule something if that is what they prefer.
3. Accounting Packages: Are your clients happy with their accounting software? There is a variety of accounting packages clients can use, and being familiar with the offerings like QBO, Xero and Sage can help you match your client to the right package. One like QBO is more tailored for small business owners who may not be accounting savvy, while others, like Sage Intaact, are more in-depth and may suit the needs of a client with a Controller/CFO roll. Your client should be happy with the accounting software they use so their work is done effectively. They might not know the options they have, either, so it’s important you make them aware of what software is available to them even if it’s something you wouldn’t choose personally. Having said that, you as a CPA need to make sure you’re using software in-house that works with accounting software options universally so your job is less stressful. Automated accounting software like the one BaCo uses in-house is agnostic to accounting software, so it can be used in conjunction with multiple software options, making it a stress-free experience to work with your client. It’s a question many CPAs may not ask their clients, but it should be. Inquire, “Do you feel your accounting package meets your needs?” once a year or anytime a client adds on a new service. Outside of just making working with clients easier, there may be opportunities with some providers for you to even generate additional revenue.
4. Data-Gathering Tools: Gathering client data is a burdensome process for both the client and the CPA. A CPA can spend upwards of 40 percent of their time doing this, so finding a tool that makes this easier allows you to manage your clients more efficiently. One example is Onvio, which enables CPAs and clients to share data seamlessly through popular document-sharing solutions. Client portals like Citrix ShareFile provide an all-in-one option where you can consolidate data, email clients, and work offline to gather all of the information you need for bookkeeping and taxes. This way, you can focus on client retention instead of having to contact your clients for minor details. (Or, if you must do so, contacting them is easy and quick.) BaCo’s in-house software allows us to automatically gather data from our clients every night so we don’t have to continually ask them for it or struggle to get their data at the end of tax season. You might consider searching out tools that do the same so you can be more efficient with your clients.
With all the resources on the market, you’re sure to find the one that works best for you and optimizes your client retention. But, make sure that your clients are satisfied with the solutions they’re receiving. If you’re the only one who likes the results and your clients are unhappy, you’ll lose those clients. Use tools like the ones above to streamline your workflow so you can focus more on client retention.
Tips for Client Engagement
As we mentioned before, the CPA-client relationship is crucial in this industry, making client engagement just as important as the tools you use. After all, how are you supposed to build your relationship if you don’t engage with your clients? Here are a couple tips on improving engagement to push your client relationships to the next level.
It’s about the quality, not just the interaction: Yes, interacting with potential clients is important, but if it’s not a quality interaction, you’ve wasted their time and your relationship is deteriorating before it even started. Let’s say you want your potential clients to be able to ask questions or contact you easily about general inquiries. You might include a “Contact Us” page, an FAQ page, or a communication portal on your website. However, it needs to be one or the other. Pick something that will be monitored and taken care of. If you have a “Contact Us” page but no one to man the phone or email, the quality of interactions is poor, and you’ve lost potential clients.
Seamlessly connect all your systems: On an average day, a CPA may deal with 4-5 different forms of software. By connecting them all, you’ll save time and energy and lower the risk of losing your data. This allows you to easily find information when speaking to clients, so the interaction is quicker and more organized making your relationship better. Our firm has a centralized workflow that allows us to see all of our client data in one place. We can then easily communicate back and forth with everyone. Figuring out ways to centralize allows you to be more efficient and opens up time to better communicate with your clients.
Remember: The work you do for your clients is important, but fostering a relationship with them might be even more so. With a poor CPA-client relationship, what’s keeping that client from using a different firm next tax season?
Will Baker has worked in Client Services in the marketing and technology space since graduating from the University of Oklahoma. A son of a CPA, he has developed a passion for helping CPAs improve their practices and gain more work-life balance through technology and attracting the right types of clients. Will has been able to help firms across...