Keeping Up with Customer Expectations: The 2022 Edition

Offering customers a positive online experience has been the price of admission for marketers since the dawn of digital marketing. The problem is that the definition of positive keeps changing. Where do customers expect you to engage with them? Once upon a time, having a website was plenty. Then having a mobile presence became essential, followed by customers’ demand for mobile applications that personalized their experience of your company. Next came social media. Which platforms did they prefer? How many platforms did you have to manage to satisfy their demands? 

 

Customers keep raising the bar and sometimes it’s tough to see how high your company has to climb. Certainly, COVID19 further upped the ante. Customers wanted more and better service from the safety of their homes. But even in the pre-COVID era, customer expectations for technology-enabled service grew every year. And analysts predict they’ll demand even more should we ever reach an age that can be called the post-Covid era. Gen-Z will likely lead the charge, expressing a distinct preference for helping themselves via digital channels, from in-app messaging to online chatbots.

 

Customer Expectations by the Numbers

What do customers want right now? A comprehensive 2020 study by Appnovation provides some insight, reporting that 44% of customers surveyed fully expected businesses to adopt new and innovative digital solutions in 2021. Another 45% of survey respondents expected companies to enhance their existing technology, as well. Then there were the hopefuls: even those customers who didn’t expect these changes expressed a desire for innovation, nonetheless. Only 17% of customers reported that they didn’t much care about digital service innovation. But that number may be suspect. Customers who profess not to care quickly change their tune when they’re inconvenienced or unable to get the services they need online. That’s precisely the customer experience that drives innovation. So don’t discount the seemingly disengaged. They should figure as an important segment in your marketing planning.

 

The Common Threads Among Customer Expectations

According to a study by Aqui, 78% of customers want to do business with brands that “get them.” Brands that demonstrate insight into their needs and can quickly solve their problems get top marks. Most of us aren’t mind readers, of course. That’s why primary market research should be an essential element of your brand planning. If you haven’t hosted any focus groups or put a survey out into the market in some time, now is the right moment to do so. The global pandemic brought profound changes. Customers are shopping differently now and 75% of respondents to Aqui’s survey reported trying new brands, stores, and channels during the COVI19 era. If what you know about your customers is based on 2-year-old data, your established customer profiles may be way off target. 

 

Customers want to trust brands and see companies live up to their brand promises. Trust has new meaning now. Customers expect brands to prioritize their safety, demonstrated by actions as basic as implementing enhanced sanitation or as complicated as cybersecurity. They also want brands to provide financial security for themselves and their employees, even if it means taking a financial hit themselves. No doubt, that’s why record inflation has become a hot political issue. The pandemic has even influenced customers’ expectations of brand communications. They’re less interested in light-hearted advertising and prefer to see messages that demonstrate empathy and help them solve the new problems they’re having now. You may want to discuss that trend with your advertising agency. 

 

Digital Readiness Cuts Across Industries

Customers have varying expectations of the companies they do business with, of course. Would you buy a new car without taking it for a test drive? Not surprisingly, Appnovation’s study found that, in the pre-COVID era, a majority of consumers wouldn’t. That’s not to say they didn’t visit car dealer websites or read a lot of online product reviews—but the need to physically touch something before you buy it is real and underscores that in-store and person-to-person customer experiences shouldn’t get lost in the digital shuffle. Many people want to squeeze the avocados, too. Despite an increase in shopping for essential goods online, Kroger, Stop and Shop, and Piggly Wiggly parking lots are still jammed.

 

Customers making purchases in certain industries, especially banking and other financial services, express a high level of digital readiness. Let’s look at banking for a moment. It may have started with ATMs—people didn’t care to wait for a teller to serve them in bank branches—but now customers are plenty content to perform a wide range of banking tasks online and via mobile app. They want to open checking accounts, pay their bills, refinance their student loans, invest in their retirement, and more, all online. And the banking industry upped its game in response.

 

The lending industry stands out for having made some tremendous strides towards improving customer experience, aided by new financial technology applications that make the process of applying for and being funded for a loan faster, simpler, and more convenient. Traditional banks and credit unions, established online mortgage lenders like Quicken and LoanDepot, and a booming new crop of fintech lending startups have all adopted digital lending platforms in recent years. The insurance industry and its many tentacles—from traditional home and auto policies to the growing pet insurance sector—has also benefited from financial technology. Indeed, these companies have their own moniker: they’re known as insuretech companies. Not surprisingly, fintech has dominated in the venture capital arena, attracting $134 billion in funding in 2021—a number that represents 177% year-over-year growth.   

 

Fine-Tuning Your Sales Process

If you’re still relying on the same Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application you’ve used for years, you’re not accessing all the technology available to help you close deals. Sales enablement applications are gaining favor and 77% of companies who employ a sales team in excess of 500 members are now relying on SAAS companies that provide sales enablement tools. And interest is growing. Google searches for “sales enablement” increased by 52% between 2020 and 2021. 

What’s the difference between CRM and sales enablement platforms? CRMs collect the data you need to manage relationships. Sales enablement manages relationships for you. These applications often feature digital conference rooms where salespeople and customers can meet virtually while having immediate access to proposals, relevant content, records of previous conversations, and more. Sales enablement platforms can better align your sales and marketing functions. 

 

Sales enablement solutions also function as sales training resources. Training not only improves sales performance, but also keeps your sales team happy. One of the most commonly cited reasons why sales people quit their jobs is a dearth of training and a clear path to career advancement. A LinkedIn study revealed that 94% of employees say they’d stay put in their roles if their employers invested in their futures through sales training. Sales enablement technology is one way companies can keep their salespeople engaged and satisfied—and manage the other epidemic we’re in the midst of: record attrition levels. One in four workers quit their jobs last year. And attrition levels are even higher in the sales arena—19% higher, in fact. 

 

The First Step in Meeting Customer Expectations

As the old saying goes, you can’t fix something if you don’t know it’s broken. Research that enhances your understanding of your customers—and your employees—is vital to meeting, or better yet, even exceeding, customer expectations. And yours should cover every touchpoint. Website and mobile stats, email CTRs, customer service standards, monitoring product reviews and consumer ratings—there’s a wealth of data out there that can help you fine tune your customer experience. And one last suggestion: study your competition carefully. Find a way to differentiate yourself in a meaningful way. What does meaningful mean? That’s a question only your customers can answer.

 

Author Bio:

Susan Doktor is a journalist, business strategist, and principal at Branddoktor. Her contribution comes to us courtesy of Money.com. Follow Susan on Twitter @branddoktor.

5 Tips To Build Strong Relationships With Accounting Clients

We would like to discuss the peculiarities accounting professionals have building relationships with clients and provide recommendations on how to find the right approach to clients in this niche. 

The business world as it relates to accounting is constantly evolving, creating new directions, specializations, and an increasing number of companies. To enable business growth and development, some companies look for efficient ways and approaches to build trusting relationships with clients and enable business growth.  The number of current clients can be diverse, and it doesn’t matter how big it is, but it is essential to provide each of them with high-quality services. However, building long-term business relationships where both sides are satisfied is not a one-day and easy process. 

Be proficient in the accounting field

This indicator of your professionalism as an accountant reveals your knowledge in this sphere. When clients come to an accountant, they are commonly sure that they can ask any question and the specialist will help them with any situation and need. 

To ensure the development of trusting relationships with your clients, be the professional who knows the solutions to any problems. Foremost, it is pivotal to precisely depict the specifics of your services—tell about your strong sides and areas where you succeeded to gain extensive experience. Thus, your new clients will know what field you are proficient in and can decide whether your business is relevant to their demands. 

Additionally, you should have a business website and a blog like the custom writing service Best Writers Online, where you can also demonstrate your expertise, cases, testimonials, and other useful information for your clients. These sources of information show the credibility of your business, helping you build stronger relationships with your regular and potential clients. 

Be transparent in all accounting processes

Transparency is pivotal and fundamental in the financial area. So, to avoid confusion, risks, and errors, people hire accountants to maintain the financial processes within their companies or other spheres. Actually, you don’t have a right to a mistake, for instance, in payroll or tax documentation as it can cause serious money losses or even fines for your clients. 

Transparency in all processes must be your number one priority in working with clients, especially if your communication is held completely remotely via chats, mailing, and online calls. You need to show you care for the security of information you receive from your clients, as this is what actually attracts people to the accountant businesses they hire. People care about where their money goes, including all payments and taxes, and what results of your cooperation they will surely receive. Business owners commonly have lots of concerns with looking for new accountants and contracts which are related to money, credibility, and positive expected results from the cooperation. Make sure you are capable of coping with all of these concerns with suitable solutions and decisions. 

Ensure offline meetings with accounting clients

As we mentioned in the previous point, nowadays, the remote type of partnership is gaining momentum. However, it becomes quite complicated to build actual relationships with your clients online. Partners of this type may need several months to get used to each other and trust each other. But talking about the relations between an accountant and clients, they don’t have this amount of time. So, it is advisable to find the ability to make offline meetings in the places suitable for both sides or in your office, which as an accounting company worker or owner, you surely need to have. The availability of meetings in the office adds more credibility and trust to your company and services. 

 Due to the writing service Writing Judge, such personal meetings help get more acquainted with people you cooperate with, and find out more about their case specifics and ongoing needs, and plans to ensure you are on the same page. Besides, personal meetings aim to make your relations stronger and more reliable. 

Keep in touch with your accounting clients

By hiring a personal accountant, people are going to entrust them with their finances, no matter whether they use this money for personal purposes or at work. As you know, communication is key, especially in this sensitive area. It is very essential to be available any time your client requires you, urgently or not. 

Foremost, you need to choose the primary channel where you could chat with your partner on a daily basis. It can be Slack workplace, working emails, Microsoft Teams, and other tools that would be convenient for both of you. 

Secondly, you need to schedule regular online calls with clients for discussion of certain questions and hold consultations due to the case of your client. You have to be always in touch with them, showing your care and value to them, and enabling the development of your business relationships. For instance, if you don’t have time to answer back immediately, make sure you remember about it and will respond as soon as possible to help your clients.  

Be ready to adapt to the needs of your accounting clients

People turn to accountants for various purposes. Some need to monitor and execute their tax planning, some need an accountant to do more than the compliance work within their businesses, and this may also include other personal and business requirements. To ensure your clients will retain and ask exactly for your services, as an accountant or owner of an accountant business, you need to be ready to adjust to the needs of your clients providing them with relevant services.

You can simply arrange the consulting meetings for your clients, showing your value to each of them and trying to find the best solutions to their situations. This is also a good way to discover whether this client is your target and whether your services are suitable for that case. 

To conclude

Taking into account the tips we described, building trusting and long-term relations with clients for accountants is quite a durable and specific process. 

There are two pivotal things you need to think about in advance—the value of your services to your clients and the value of relations with clients for your accountant business.  So, focusing on building strong relationships is a never-ending task for you as well as your clients to reach the expected results in the short term. 

Learn more what you can do to become for your clients a Profit & Growth Expert.

Written by Kim Brice

What Is Customer Experience in the Accounting World?

With customer experience (CX) being emphasized as a driver of success, businesses across the industries shouldn’t sleep or pass on the opportunity to make the most of it. Differentiated from customer service which resolves issues, helps solve customer issues and offer advice, CX represents the accurate perception of the interactions customers have with your company. It’s a real competitive advantage that can attract loyal clients and boost revenue when leveraged to the maximum. 

 

Occurring from the very first touchpoint with your firm up until the last minute of the interaction, CX ensures that the customer journey is as seamless as possible. This is particularly relevant to the accounting realm where technological innovations tend to automate the tasks of accountants, bookkeepers and tax preparers like data entry. When the ‘wow’ element in accounting is lost, focusing on providing the best customer experience helps bring it back. 

 

To connect with your customers beyond helping to manage debits and credits, consider reevaluating how you approach the following activities:

1. Collecting and analyzing data

Gaining clear insight into the collected data isn’t just about analyzing the performance of a company. It’s also about observing what areas from the entire data collection process are contributing to engagement and a satisfactory customer experience. When the customer has a positive perception of his experience with the help of your services, they are more likely to use it to make more informed business decisions. 

 

An efficient data analysis system is instrumental to meeting your customers’ needs. Although the connection might seem indirect at first, systemizing the inflow of accounting data guarantees a happy repeat customer. 

2. Streamlining billing and invoicing

No one likes to deal with the complexity of payments. If a customer notices that the accounting firm they are doing business with isn’t being efficient with billing and invoicing, they may quickly switch to another company. This is because when money is on the line, customers are typically less forgiving of mistakes that companies make. 

 

To avoid disappointing those who keep you in business, you should be the example and  streamline the payment process of sending and receiving the financial documents. This way, you’re minimizing the number of miscalculations and other errors that would cost you time, money, and the customer.         

3. Ensuring data privacy        

Research by Salesforce found that 46% of customers feel like they don’t have control over their personal data anymore. The more clients become concerned with how their data is handled by companies they purchase from, the higher the pressure on businesses to be transparent about their customer data usage. In accounting, the question of data privacy is of utmost concern. 

 

Since web transactions are prone to hacking, companies should focus on adopting accounting software that guarantees the security of customer data. This will help prevent customers’ identities and money from being stolen and a terrible customer experience from driving clients away from you.       

4. Expanding advisory services 

It’s difficult to improve customer retention if your customer experience is lacking. To remain competitive on the market with an abundance of accounting, bookkeeping and tax firms, you should invest in offering the CFO & advisory services you can provide in addition to the quality accounting services you do now. (if you aren’t already). With the global accounting services market forecasted to reach $735.94 billion in 2025, it’s only fair to expect this to be a competitive advantage that will make you stand out. 

 

Besides, offering advice to business owners who often feel in the dark when navigating their financials leads to happy clients and a satisfactory customer experience. Whether you focus on coaching your clients on when to purchase assets or giving a fresh perspective on the old ways they’re handling their finances, you’re likely to get positive feedback. 

5. Onboarding clients

One of the most overlooked areas for improving customer experience is paying more attention to onboarding clients. This process helps both parties determine the first steps of the collaboration and what information would make it as smooth as possible. 

 

To ensure that the onboarding process meets the customer’s needs as much as the goals of the accounting firm, you should have a predefined scope checklist in place. Featuring statements like ‘add the client to the newsletter’, ‘schedule a follow-up a week after the initial meeting’, and ‘get documentation from the client’, it acts as a guiding tool that ensures that the needs of both the business and the customer are fully met.      

6. Providing omni-channel communication

A multichannel approach to customers is key to building strong customer relationships. It empowers customer service staff to use various messaging platforms to reach the customer and provide him with a solution. There are also several more ways to enhance communication with clients for an optimal customer experience:

 

  • Ensure that the customers’ files are stored securely 
  • Schedule an automatic request reminder system for following up with customers 
  • Offer a digital portal that makes uploading files quick and easy 

 

When every communication element is in check, you’re bound to improve your customer satisfaction score as well as your Net Promoter Score. It might not be an instant hit — there’s no one-size-fits-all solution — but with time, you’ll get a gist of what communication channels your customers prefer and be able to cater to them accordingly.    

 

In short, at least consider responding in kind, which is to say reaching back using the same medium originally used by the customer such as a call for call, text with text, email with an email.

7. Offering self-service tools

Automating customer service isn’t just an option — it’s a necessity. Although you don’t have to have an automation-based solution to every step of the customer service you provide, it takes some weight off of you when you allow customers to figure things out on their own. Besides, 67% of customers prefer to use self-service tools instead of talking to a customer service agent. 

 

Chances are, you already have a comprehensive FAQ page on your website where your customers can find answers to the most commonly asked questions. But you can take it a step further and start a blog with more in-depth information on the topics that are relevant to your clients. The best part is that it’s available 24/7, and there are no hidden costs involved. 

Wrapping up

Remaining flexible when offering customer service is an underestimated but determining factor in whether or not the customer experience your customers get is up to par with their ever-changing expectations. With technology enabling the automation of many tasks, business owners can now rely on software to help keep customer data safe and transactions secure.  For more information, attend this webinar dedicated to helping accounting professionals utilize effective client retention management (CRM) systems and more.  Register NOW!

 

Polish your customer management strategy and be willing to tweak it if the demand calls for it. This way, you’ll be able to stay competitive and boost your customer retention rate like never before. 

Providing Excellent Accounting Services

If you’re like most accounting professionals, you want to provide excellent accounting services to every client. If you don’t, you probably won’t be in business for long.

I once heard a speech by a man who I greatly admire. His name is Dallin H. Oaks and his talk was entitled “Good, Better, Best”. Although he was speaking of choosing the best activities when considering how to use our time, I feel the principle is appropriate here. Are you just a “good” accountant, a “better” accountant, or the “best” accountant for your clients?

Most people will answer, “I want to be the best accountant, but I only have so much time.” Certainly, time is important when evaluating what to do for a client. Yet, what if you could go from being a “good” accountant, to the “best” accountant in only ten minutes? Would it be worth it?

The key to providing excellent accounting services is to look forward, not just backward, with each client. When we do accounting, we are entering historical data to determine where our client’s been and what their present situation is. Most good accountants consider this their primary purpose and are satisfied simply handing over the financial statements and calling it finished.

Nevertheless, the most important thing we can do is assess where the client’s going, and warn of concerns, and share ideas for improvement even when the client’s business is doing well.

You can save time by limiting your assessment to the top three sources of income, and the top five expense categories. Run trend reports on each of these eight accounts for the past six accounting periods, and project those trends into the next two accounting periods to determine where they will be.

For the flat or dropping income accounts, consider geometric marketing ideas (see “In the Black”, Chapter 3) that will improve revenues. For any growing expense accounts, evaluate vendors and prices to make suggestions for decreasing expenses.

You will amaze yourself how easy and possible it is to go from good to your clients’ BEST accountant, in fact a Profit & Growth Expert.

Mind Your Workplace Manners

bad-communication5 Fatal Professional Flaws

When you’re frustrated with a work situation, it can be difficult not to react negatively.  But it’s important that you secure a healthy perspective in order to foster a positive workplace environment.  Lashing out or getting too comfy can mean the end of fairly good position, the opportunity to earn that desired promotion, or the inability to inspire and lead your team.  And regardless of your future plans, you wouldn’t an awkward situation to taint your professional reputation.

Like the seven deadly sins, you must make an effort to avoid the following 5 fatal flaws:

1. Anger. Anger is generally a masking emotion, meaning it is a cover for deeper, more painful ones.  If you’re feeling angry you must ask yourself what you’re really feeling.  Sadness?  Disappointment?  Frustration?  Hopelessness?  All these emotions can hide safely beneath anger, making it difficult for you to deal with your true feelings.  Not only that, but anger can be extremely destructive.

2. Envy. Think of all the famous fables, stories and fairy tales.  Did jealously ever get anyone anywhere?  No.  In fact, it’s generally a fatal flaw that destroys both antagonists and heroes alike.  And in the work place, jealousy only distracts you from performing your job well.

3. Complacency. Webster defines complacency as ‘self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.’  Unless you’re continually trying to improve your game, chances are you’ll become complacent, unaware that you’re no longer fulfilling your job description and meeting your employer’s and/or clients’ needs.

4. Short-sighted. It’s important that you have a vision for what the company aspires to do as well as an action plan that will help you accomplish it.  Understanding the big picture enables you to reach higher while contributing to your employer’s and/or clients’ success.

5. Arrogance. Like jealousy, there are no inspiring stories about great leaders who achieved their goals with arrogance.  Regardless of your role, it’s important that you be a team player who is teachable and continually striving to better yourself.

It’s important that you evaluate your workplace attitude to see if you’ve become the biggest obstacle to your own career advancement.  Sometimes a slight change in perspective is all it takes to change the trajectory of your future.

Register for Universal’s FREE Start Today Seminar

From DC to Texas and Canada to California—Universal travels the country providing free 3-hour seminars teaching the secrets to establishing a successful accounting and bookkeeping service.  There you’ll learn how to enhance your service offerings while increasing your bottom lime!  Look at our schedule and register for one of our seminars in a city near you.  As attendee Dennis Shumway explained, “I have been involved in financial service for 20 years and have attended seminars all over the country. The quality of this class has been head and shoulders above any class that I have ever taken.”

Take advantage of this FREE opportunity now!  Register today!

 

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