One of the most common observations I find when speaking to Partners of accountancy practices is a general feeling that they are always busy and that time is their enemy. Much of the time, they are in a rush to meet some deadline to get things done. Eventually, when they do have time to draw air, they are then confronted with the next wave of tasks and deadlines. This never-ending cycle seems to continually grow with new legislation and rules to keep partners on their toes. However, somehow, work gets completed and usually things just get done. But does everything get done?
You may complete the work, but are there elements of client engagement and communication that fall short?
Keeping in Touch
As a Partner of a firm of accountants, can you honestly say that you are on top of all your clients? Are you sure that your colleagues and staff are also up to speed with your client dealings? Do you know if all your “premier” clients receive a keep-in-touch call at least every 90 days?
Are you confident that all your clients are regularly provided with the most up-to-date advice and information and are aware of all the services available to them?
Do you chase clients promptly and remind them of pending tax deadlines? Or follow up those stragglers for information, advising them of potential penalties? If you do manage to do all this; how much time and resource does it take?
New Client Onboarding
Are you 100% convinced and know that every new prospect is correctly nurtured through your client onboarding process? Have you mapped out the prospect-to-client journey and know at each stage where each opportunity is? And its potential value? And when it is likely to convert?
Referrals and Introducers
What processes do you have in place to nurture your referral relationships? Do you know who your top 5 referrers and how much business revenue they have generated? Is this knowledge shared across the firm? Have you identified the common characteristics of the top referrers and analysed your successes to see if it can be replicated to then build a greater referrer network? What incentives work best that reward referrers?
Are you absolutely convinced that no opportunity is missed, and that no one;prospects, clients or referrers fall though the net?
Relationship Management and MTD
For a practice to grow and win more business you need to keep regular contact with clients – particularly with MTD around the corner. You will build a close and loyal client and show that your practice “goes the extra mile”. That is what set’s you apart from your competition. Your USP is your ability to service your clients with an unparalleled customer experience and that is all about “Client Engagement”.
What Client Engagement Tools Are Currently at My Disposal?
One of the fundamental areas a firm of accountants will struggle with is client engagement. This is usually down to the fact that practice management (PM) software is not best designed to deal with client engagement and struggles with modern client communications.
Email Standardisation & Mass Sending
Sending an email from PM can be clunky at best and it’s certainly not the best option for sending mass correspondence.
Outlook is another option and is heavily used for general communications. Some practices use a document management system to capture emails to the client correspondence file – although, once again this is not adequate for sending mass communications.
Post a letter! These traditional methods are still used by many firms and are required in some cases. However, this method of communication is expensive, time consuming and slow. You would be surprised how many firms still send out newsletters and other forms of information via snail mail. Some of which could be delivered electronically, very easily.
To deliver an effective marketing campaign you need to use a professional marketing resource. These marketing tools are designed to send emails en-masse, avoiding blacklisting your own domain. They can track customer interaction. For instance, whether a person has opened the email or clicked on a link in the message that is of interest to them. More importantly they provide the recipient with an opt-out/unsubscribe option to notify you to delist them from any future communication. Failure to comply to this request can lead to hefty criminal fines.
However, these marketing systems tend to be standalone systems which are not directly connected to your Outlook, Practice management or internal marketing activities.
The Weak Link in the Chain!
There is a wealth of valuable, everchanging, client information within a Practice Management system. However, it is often a challenge to locate specific information and requires cumbersome and inefficient methods to manually extract data. Once exported, this now aging and out of date information may need further analysis before it can be imported to a marketing system.
All this work can be extremely time consuming and open to errors when trying to manage multiple spreadsheets and current versions. This whole exercise is often so time consuming, some firms don’t even bother… They just haven’t got the time!
How Do I Simplify Client Communications?
Like most things it takes investment and that does not mean just buying software. It is your time, it is your commitment and you need to get everyone onboard. But you also need the tools to do the job and that means using a CRM system (Client Relationship Management).
As you may know, practice management is not designed to deal with modern forms of communication – CRM is. The CRM’s main purpose is all about managing the client journey from cradle to grave. It has moved on and it is far more than just managing contact details and logging calls. The reach of CRM is vast.
What is CRM’s Reach?
CRM is all about client engagement and this infographic highlights just some of the areas you can integrate CRM with.
CRM provides businesses with a central place to collate all customer information; prospects, referrers, suppliers, third parties and even your competition!
Can CRM Unify My Systems?
Once you have all your information streaming into your CRM, you can start to take advantage of the powerful Business Intelligence (BI) tools. You will have at your disposal analytical tools to create multiple reports from client profiles and build in-depth Target Lists that segment your information to then feed a series of other feature modules;
- Email Marketing & Drip Campaigns – MailChimp & Campaign Monitor
- Automated Workflows – Client operational emails/SMS notifications
- Task Manager – Internal reminders and call to actions
- Sales Opportunities – Track stages and forecasts
- Call Analytics – Sales performance
- Reporting – Keep in Touch, Upsell/Cross-Sell, Time & Fees Analysis
What makes this all possible is the integration between your PM software and CRM. Without integration, communications and client engagement is clunky and disjointed.
Using CRM to unify your communication systems gives you the capability to drive efficiency through your firm giving you 360-degree visibility through your practice.
Unify All Your Communications
- Exchange Server – Outlook, Office 365
- VOIP Telephony
- Mobile / SMS Communications
- Practice Management
- Marketing Lists
- Customer Surveys
- Sage, Quick Books Xero
- Document Management
- Client Portal
With all this valuable information flowing though the CRM you will have unprecedented capability to produce powerful analytical reports providing you with in-depth client and market knowledge that will help you to deliver the best possible service to your clients.
How Long Will It Take to Get CRM Working Within My Firm?
There is no quick win with CRM. So, don’t expect miracles within the first 3 months. CRM is a journey and one that evolves with time.
You will need to invest your time in the early stages. It will need everyone’s commitment and eventually you need everyone in the firm to be a part of the CRM journey. CRM only works if everyone is on-board.
Review your processes and focus on the priority areas of your business. Be it new business, improved client communications, streamlined internal processes etc. As I have said, the capabilities of CRM are vast and outreaching and you will not master it all within a few months.
CRM is an essential and invaluable business tool for any firm of accountants that is looking to evolve its practice. It demonstrates real value for both the practice as well as its clients.
If used correctly CRM will, in time, become an indispensable part of your daily business.
If you would like to discuss what CRM can do for your business please get in touch with a brief outline of your practice and areas of interest. I am happy to discuss any specific requirements.
Email Communication Tips
Use a good email marketing platform – There are so many to choose from. Mail Chimp, Campaign Monitor etc. However, my favourite is Campaign Monitor, it’s so easy to use and is used by some pretty large corporations and favoured by many marketing firms.
Amongst all the great usual features you would expect from such a product, it has a simple and easy to use template builder and a very useful workflow tool that allows you to create drip campaigns. Another good feature is the forms creation tool, this allows you to create web capture forms to embed into your own website. A very useful feature if you wish to capture enquiries from your website.
Make it personal – Whether its marketing collateral, news and information, alerts or reminders through to operational emails – personalise them. A “Dear Sue” or ” Dear John” will go a long way. It shows that you, and the communication, are more personable and is more likely to get their attention and ultimately the correct response.
Make it relevant – KYC (Know Your Client). Sending out bulk emails that are not correctly targeted run the risk of being ignored or even worse, they show your lack of understanding! That’s worse than NOT communicating at all. Client/prospect profiles should be continuously updated so that you can create specific targeted lists that pin point your customers’ requirements. You’re more likely to get far greater responses from sending out relevant information.
Make it routine – Get used to sending out timely emails targeting relevant annual events. Plan ahead and make sure you get the balance right. Don’t send too many – you do not want to run the risk of bombarding your clients with too much information. Regular contact reminds your client that you are there.
Make it easy – To deliver an effective email campaign, it needs to be easy and simple to administer. The challenge that many firms face is with their existing client profiles. Getting up-to-date relevant information, which is usually buried within practice software, requires an element of data-mining. This practice can be time consuming and subsequently produces multiple Excel spreadsheets that need constant updating and then importing into a marketing system. The only way to make this work efficiently is to UNIFY all your systems and using CRM is the most effective way to do it.