Top 10 Customer Service Strategies

Customer service maven Shep Hyken joins the SevenKeys CPA webinar on client service, “How to Protect Your Clients from Competition.”

Here, Hyken lists ten critically important ideas for delivering outstanding client service.

For example:

1. Analyze when things go RIGHT. (Not just when things go wrong.)

2. Make sure client experiences are consistent.You can’t deliver great customer only SOME of the time. That can be worse than delivering average client service ALL THE TIME: The reason: Clients don’t know what to expect from you.

3. Create a client service culture: Treat your employees as well or better than your clients.

For more, click the video:

LIVE WEBINAR: July 25, 12 Noon to 1:15 pm EDT
With special Guest Shep Hyken, customer service advocate,
providing strategies on client service, satisfaction and retention.

Register Today – Only $89

See the complete 2013 webinar schedule.








Thanks for the the feedback!

Thanks to everyone for joining us for the webinar, “How to Generate, Nurture and Close New Business.” Watch for the link to the recording.

Your early feedback has been terrific!

  • “Relevant useful content – ability to act on today.” – Carol C. Carlile, Holthouse Carlin & Van Trigt LLP,
    Costa Mesa, CA
  • “It was very informative, allowed me to see the things we as a firm are doing right and some things we need to focus more on. The guest speaker was also fantastic and really knew the subject matter.”
  • “Good content, but needed more questions answered and give more examples of strategies that work in the acctg” field.”
  • “I was impressed with what you know, how much you know about it & how well you articulate your message.”
  • “It is very timely for our firm since we are in the process of re-doing our website and starting to embrace social media.”

The next event is July 25, “How to Protect Your Clients from Competitors / Client Service, Satisfaction & Retention.”

See the full schedule here.



Beyond Traditional Practice Management

What happens when today’s practice management principles become obsolete?

This article is adapted from the forthcoming book, “SevenKeys to Successful CPA Firm Management”

In today’s competitive and rapidly changing business environment, change management may be the single most important skill for every CPA.

Technology, demographics and globalization are demanding new business models from accountants. In some ways, the traditional principles of management of an accounting practice (MAP, for short) are under such pressure that they may never be quite the same again. Today, it seems, there is no single best way to run a firm.

For sure, just “keeping up” is a major challenge for many professionals, according to variety of authorities. “Keeping up” with tax and accounting rules or “keeping up” with technology emerge again and again on the short list of troublesome issues for CPAs, according to the American Institute of CPAs.

But “keeping up” is not a strategy. Not a strategy for success, anyway. Many of the most successful firms I’m seeing these days are going beyond “keeping up.” Or, I should say, are going around “keeping up.”

Read the rest of this entry »

The Real Reasons Clients Change CPA Firms

In our relentless pursuit of mutually satisfying CPA-Client relationships, the Seven Keys to Successful CPA Firm Management has asked over 3,000 clients and practitioners what clients really want.

The responses indicate a general, if not unanimous, consensus: Clients want service. Lots of it. Now. And it better be good. And heartfelt. And cheap.

“They want someone who will take a personal interest in learning their business and help guide/coach them through the turbulent times,” says one head of a small CPA firm in Houston. “Be proactive and help them save money on taxes and other costs of operation.”

That CPA crammed a lot of common feelings into that response. We’re finding clients and CPAs alike calling for much the same: CPAs who care, who do more than audit or prep taxes, who are proactively involved in keeping clients updated and duly informed, all at a price that clients tended to call “reasonable” and CPAs tended to call “cheap.”

But something else came up a lot, something we’d think was both reasonable and cheap, not to mention easy, but apparently it’s been widely lacking: communication.

“They want someone who will take their phone call, who will listen to them on the phone and will make time for them,” said the president of small financial consulting firm in Redding, Conn. “They want to be understood.”

Indeed, “cheap” came up quite a bit. But the all-too-human urge that creates a demand for cheap beer, cheap cars, and cheap clothes doesn’t necessarily extend to audits and accounting services.

The owner of a small firm in Phoenix, Ariz., has apparently been dealing with clients who are even more demanding. They want “cheap service of the highest quality available,” he says.

Is that asking too much? Well, maybe…

“Price, Service, Quality — pick two!” said one CEO of a smallish client company.

But a partner at a two-partner accounting firm in Boca Raton, Fla., sees clients having more reasonable requests.
“Clients want accountants who are knowledgeable and respond to their questions in a timely fashion,” he says, “while not being charged for every little item.”

On the client side, a senior staffer of a governmental agency in Indianapolis, Ind., sees a need for C.Y.A. CPA services. He says clients want “not to have to worry about service being provided. They want to know that it is done and there is nothing that will come back to haunt them.”

The idea of “avoiding trouble” comes up in quite a few responses, but overall, clients are looking for real help in running their businesses.

One client-side CFO seems to say it all: “Clients want guidance. They don’t need their CPA to be a guru in their business, but they expect their CPA to take an active interest in their business.

Being willing to listen and learn the business is important. Clients want sound advice when it’s given, and they want to know what the numbers mean. They want accuracy and the confidence in knowing what they hire their CPA for will be done right.”

That says a lot, maybe even most of what any decent practitioner needs to know. It could also be a list of what a client might expect from an accountant.

We notice that price isn’t mentioned much by clients. Apparently some things are priceless. Solid service may be one of them.

What happens when you don’t have a marketing plan? [VIDEO]

To learn more about the SevenKeys 90-Day Marketing Jumpstart Webinar Workshop, Thursday, Sept. 20, 12 Noon ET to 1 pm ET, co-produced by CPA Trendlines, click here.

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What You Think You Know about Your Clients Is Probably Wrong

According to the AICPA, the most significant challenge facing CPA firms of all sizes across the nation today is gaining new clients. But too many firms overlook the low-hanging fruit of their existing client bases.

It starts with asking the right questions. In fact, we’ve found over and over again that:

  1. Most firms do not know why they are hired or why clients fire them.
  2. The reason most firms do not know why they are hired or fired is that they do not ask.
  3. What they think they know is wrong, because they do not analyze it.

Customer loyalty leads to increased revenues and profits. This is not a secret. SevenKeys CPA research shows, in fact, that increased customer loyalty drives revenue growth by up to 20 percent.

Many business experts are convinced most firms can increase wallet share from existing clients by 10 or 20 percent.

Another study indicates that for most large companies (not just accounting firms) up to 95 percent of profits come from long-term customers.

So it’s easy to see that many a CPA firm could benefit from examining their client list and ensure that you know the tenure you enjoy with your clients. And then build plans and processes to ensure that you are paying special attention to those clients who have been on board with you for a long time.

You certainly know that it costs more to acquire a new client than to retain one. But do you know how much more it costs? You can do the math: add together marketing costs, networking costs, sales costs, and then monetize the time and effort invested by everyone involved in bringing in the client.  Now calculate the amount of money you lose when you start up with a new client.

Once you quantify all of the costs and compare to the revenue earned working with existing clients, it is easy to see that the easiest new profits come not from new clients, but old.

How to Boost Profits Up to 85%? Hint: The Answer Is Closer than You Think

Looking specifically at the accounting profession, a five percent improvement in client retention can improve profits by 25 to 85 percent.

This kind of revenue growth adds directly to your bottom line.

What more compelling argument do you need to demonstrate the benefit of improving your firm’s ability to retain your clients?

Accountants already have a head start in client satisfaction. Accountants rank highest among all of the professions.

Further, if we add together those who are very satisfied and those who are somewhat satisfied, studies indicate that over 90 percent of accounting clients are satisfied with the service they receive.

Regardless of the level of client satisfaction in accounting clients, there are clear gaps between the thinking of accountants and their clients.

CPAs cannot afford to take the data as a justification for complacency.

No CPA firm can afford to take clients for granted – ever.

SevenKeys CPA studies conducted by The Bay Street Group and Capstone Marketing illuminate several very significant gaps between the opinions of clients and their CPAs. These studies allow us to begin to understand what our clients really think.

How Long Do You Keep a Client? (Warning: The Client’s Answer May Differ)

New studies conducted by The Bay Street Group and the Capstone Marketing Group illuminate several very significant gaps between the opinions of clients and their CPAs. These studies allow us to begin to understand what our clients really think.We used a combination of survey responses and interviews in our research. We surveyed both clients and CPAs. Our client respondents are high-ranking decision makers from companies that are the bread and butter of every CPA firm.

• 89 percent of the clients surveyed are senior executives

• 51 percent of them carry the title of CFO or Comptroller

• Another 22 percent are owners or CEOs

• Another 17% identify themselves as senior management.

All client respondents come from good-sized companies. Sixty percent of them work in companies employing more than 100 people. When we slice and dice the data by company size, the findings are consistent. This means that our client respondents essentially know what they want from their CPA firms. Whether the companies are big or small, they know a good accounting service when they see it.

They are a tough, knowledgeable, understanding and informed audience. They are the professionals. They are the kind of clients we want for our business.


We asked clients “How long has your CPA firm worked for you?” And, we asked CPAs “How long have you worked with your clients?”

Most of the clients interviewed say they have worked with their current CPA firm for one to five years. However, when asked the reciprocal question, CPAs in Public Accounting said they worked with their clients on average more than ten years.

This gap appears significant. However, it might not be as big a gap as it seems. This comparison might tell us more about personnel turnover rates in client companies than about a misunderstanding between CPAs and their clients.

If the average tenure of a corporate CFO, especially in the largest companies, is three to five years, the data might point to service disruptions when personnel changes occur in the client companies.

Brief tenure on the client side of the relationship makes it incumbent upon the CPA firm to nurture multiple relationships within client companies.

Building and maintaining those relationships is critical to ensure that strong enough relationships in the client company will remain despite personnel changes. These relationships will be necessary to keep the client company with your firm.

SevenKeys CPA RESEARCH: Accounting Firms Step Up Marketing Efforts in New Battle for Clients

Responses are pouring in for the latest SevenKeys CPA study of marketing trends. (If you haven’t already received an invitation, you can join the survey here. Participants get a special report of the the top-line results.)The preliminary results are eye-opening.Accounting firms are rapidly escalating their business-building efforts:

  • 66% of accountants say their firms have been increasing their marketing and business development activities in the last 12 months.

  • 85% say they will be continuing to step up marketing in the coming 12 months
  • 55% are accelerating their own personal biz-dev efforts

Adding new clients is now, clearly, the foremost concern, with 83% listing it as an objective, followed by:

  • Client retention, 72%,
  • Lead Generation, 62%, and
  • Niche or Specialty Services, 49%.

In the next 12 months, firms will be stepping up:

1. Networking with prospects and referral sources, 67%,

2. Upgrading the firm’s website, 57%,

3. E-newsletters, 52%,

4. Social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc.), 48%, and

5. Thought leadership (blogging, publishing articles, speaking engagements, white papers), 45%.

The Client/CPA Perception Gap: Clients Want More New and Different Services than Most CPAs Think

One-fourth of clients surveyed say they’d leave their current CPA firm because it might not have the new or different services that the client needs.

Only about 15 percent of CPAs seem to be aware of the danger. Although only 7 percent of clients surveyed cite personal friendship with a new CPA as a reason to switch firms, 17 percent of CPAs think it’s an important reason for a change of firm. Clearly, this is less important than CPAs think.

CPAs need to be doing more to listen to client needs and to anticipate their need for new and different services. Then they need to develop and deliver those new or different services.

CPAs should focus less on personal issues and concern themselves with business issues. This focus will enable them to understand better the needs of their clients and provide the services and the attentiveness to their needs that drives customer loyalty.

Being proactive with clients is another very important gap in the perception of CPAs. While 40 percent of the clients surveyed list proactivity as a reason to change firms, only 15 percent of CPAs understood how important this is to their clients. Clearly, clients want their CPAs to take the lead and become more proactive in anticipating their needs and preparing themselves to meet the needs as they emerge.

CPAs should be proactive in notifying clients of important legal or tax code changes that affect them. CPAs should be more proactive in anticipating and providing new and different services to meet the emerging needs of their clients as their business changes.

Significant gaps exist between what clients really think and what CPAs believe is important to their clients. These gaps indicate a need for CPAs to revise their thinking. They also indicate opportunities for CPA firms to make changes that will improve client satisfaction and retention.