Building Strong Client Relationships: Inspire Client Loyalty While Increasing Your Client Base(Part II of a four-part series on Getting and Keeping Clients)
Companies pay Joe Tamargo, a New York resident, to permanently tattoo their advertisements to his body. Now before you call him up to ask that he add your name to his forehead, consider that building strong relationships with present clients might be a little like sending them all out with your fliers in their pockets; if your clients are happy with your accounting and bookkeeping services, they will not only feel good about working with you, but they’ll also refer all their friends and family your way. So how do you build good client relationships while increasing your client base? Here are five tips:
1. Be selectiveWhen you first started your business you were probably willing to work with any money-making American with a pulse; the last time I checked that included everyone, regardless of flakiness, criminal history and/or poor credit ratings. Now we’re not encouraging you to run background checks on your clients, but you should use common sense before adding someone to your client base. To run potential clients (PC) through the selection process, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is your gut saying “no way”? [Note: This should trump everything else. If your gut says no, we suggest you listen.]
- Does the PC balk at your rates?
- Is the PC trying to work a deal, getting more from you than you typically charge?
- Does the PC want to exchange services rather than pay your fees?
- Does the PC appear needy or exceptionally high maintenance?
- Does the PC want to defer payment?
- Is the PC a closet accounting expert who wants to do a lot of the work him/herself with you working as a consultant?
- Is the PC on “the rebound,” looking for a new accountant following a failed relationship with another one?
While answering “yes” to one or two of the above questions does not necessarily mean you have a high-risk PC on your hands, answering “yes” to three or more questions just might. Be cautious and realize that just one high-risk client can cost you a lot of time and money in the end.
2. Exude confidence and enthusiasmPeople want to work with an accountant who knows what he/she is doing and is excited about doing it. If most of your interactions with clients are positive and upbeat, they will generally feel good about working with you.
3. Define relationship and expectationsMany of your clients may not have worked with an accountant before and are unsure what to expect. The rest have worked with accountants and bookkeepers and may be running on old expectations. It’s important to have a preliminary meeting where you define the relationship and your expectations, taking special note of what your clients expect from you. You may need to negotiate some of these expectations so that both you and your client are satisfied. To learn more about defining those expectations, read the article “Defining Expectations with Your Client: Starting off on the Right Foot” in next week’s newsletter.
4. CommunicateEvery healthy relationship, regardless of whether it’s with a spouse, a neighbor, a cousin, or a client, depends on good communication. Be sure to communicate with your client regularly. You may want to send your client monthly emails, updating them on their account and what you’ve been doing for them. Also, return calls and emails in a timely manner; your client should expect to hear back from you and not be disappointed.
When you provide your clients with reports or ledgers, be sure to explain them or, if they prefer, answer any questions they have at their convenience. Explain that part of your job is ensuring that they understand the information you’ve compiled for them and are willing to explain it in the way that best suits their needs.
5. Help clients come out on topGoing above and beyond the call of duty will make any client happy. Recognize that your client wants to save as much money as possible. At first they may think you’re an expense they can’t afford, but if you show them how much money you can save them in the end, they’ll be more than happy to pay your fees.
When you first start your accounting practice you may think success comes once you have a solid client base. While getting a couple solid clients is a good start, your success will be determined by how you maintain those relationships with your clients; when you build healthy relationships with your clients you create happy customers and a fleet of personal marketers who will go out and advertise your services for you. Don’t call Joe Tamargo just yet; word of mouth is still more profitable than the tattoo ad.
You’ve waited long enough to make the move to getting for your future the difference between success and mediocrity. The easiest decision you can make is enrolling in The Professional Bookkeeper’s Course. Make the difference in success, The PB designation, work for you. Don’t delay!