By Nishant Kadian

Customer loyalty is a major area of focus for any business today. Winning new clients is necessary as a way of expanding business presence and client base. However, retaining clients is crucial to business success for the simple reason that the cost of acquiring new clients is seven times higher than what it is for retaining a current client.

Client retention is proving to be an uphill challenge for accounting firms because the business competitor is just a click away. Google has made it very easy to find what you want in seconds. If your existing client is unhappy with your service for any reason, they will not hesitate to make a switch.

Market competition is getting serious, and unless you can retain your current customer base and keep them happy, it won’t do you much good to get new clients. Think of it as a glass with a crack – you can keep topping the water, but if it keeps leaking through the crack, the glass will never fill up.

It’s also important to know that 39.4% of customers will happily spend more on a brand that they are loyal to even if cheaper options are available. So if you can delight and exceed expectations of your current customer base, the kind of customer loyalty you will receive in return can be invaluable in today’s extremely hyper-competitive market space. If your business expansion strategies focus heavily only on acquiring new clients, you might want to rethink that strategy.

Consider the following six ways in which you can build customer loyalty for your accounting firm.

1. Upgrade Your Accounting Technology

Technology upgrades are happening at a fast pace and clients today expect brands to keep up with the changes that impact their relationship with the brand. The scenario is no different for accounting firms. Whether you are looking at attracting big business clients or improving your service offerings for existing clients, switching to and upgrading existing automated services can make a big difference.

Across businesses, IT budgets are being revamped as a way of improving business efficiency, pushing for better transparency, and for aiding in overall business optimization.

IT budget expansions among most small and mid-sized accounting firms, is focused on accounting software upgrades. These include the following;

  • Audit and risk support
  • Sales tax and accounting software systems
  • Expenses, HR, and practice management systems
  • Adopting the cloud with accounting application, tax software, CRM, payroll app, and other apps to build a unified and integrated accounting system

An IT and business consultant will be able to help identify the areas where upgrades are necessary and how you can go about upgrading your technology.

2. Expand Service Levels for Corporate/Business Clients

In addition to regular accounting services such as income tax filing and payment, consider other essential and high-value services which can bulk up your services menu and help establish your brand as a more “go-to” option for clients. Consider the following services:

  • Strategic business planning
  • Talent development and team building
  • Cash-flow projections and budgeting
  • Technology and web strategy

If you can expand into these areas, with a dedicated staff or even use current staff provided they have the necessary expertise, it not only opens your business to new clients but more importantly, it allows current clients to meet most, if not all their needs at one place. If you can provide excellent service, there is every possibility that these clients will happily refer you to others.

3. Offer Extra Services for Individual Clients

Don’t limit your service menu expansion to just corporate clients. Think of what you can do for individual clients. Someone might be in need of advice on financial planning for college tuition, or retirement, or on how to better manage an existing loan plan. If you don’t offer any of these services, consider partnering up with other service providers to cross-sell specific services. It is a great way of building value among current clients and for attracting new clients.

Be sure to follow up with the client to see if the other party met their needs or expectations. If they are happy with your recommendation, you would have successfully added a layer of trust for your brand among your existing clients.

4. Beat Deadlines on Client Projects

Missed or delays in meeting client deadlines can be frustrating not just for the client, but also for the people working on the projects. Think of how you can improve efficiency, and if possible, time management on client projects. Consider the following when it comes to project deadlines:

  • The best way of handling client expectations is to be realistic about deadlines.
  • Be upfront about the time a particular task or project will take.
  • Once you have committed to a specific deadline, ensure you meet it on time or better still, try and complete it ahead of schedule.
  • Adopt exclusive marketing and operational practices during tax season or other busy seasons for better client retention.
  • A great manager or project/department lead can make a difference – an efficient leader can help optimize team performance by ensuring better management of time and resources.
  • If you can pull off client projects ahead of schedule, it will help build credibility for the brand and create more opportunities for your brand to garner referrals and positive reviews.

5. Humanize Your Client Connection

An essential aspect of delivering stellar customer experiences has to do with the kind of personalization efforts a brand makes to earn customer loyalty. Most accountants or financial advisors enjoy strong professional relationships with their clients.

Take your interactions a step further by making a personal connection. Something as small as remembering the client on their birthday or wedding anniversary or inquiring about a sick child, parent, or spouse can help create a personal connection with the client.

A good CRM system can help you stay up-to-date with priority client dates and other forms of client reference material. Even if you don’t use a CRM software, you can use any smart device (phone, tablet) to key in important client information for future reference.

6. Use Mobile Apps to Drive Client Loyalty

The rise of mobile apps has been exponential thanks to the “smart” revolution. Mobile apps are used by brands across all business domains to establish and build a more brand-connected client base. Accounting firms can use the proliferation of smart devices and mobile apps to their advantage by using it as a platform to engage with clients. Mobile apps offer the following benefits:

  • They can be easily accessed via a tap the icon from any location.
  • No need for a URL to access or open the app.
  • Everyone uses a smartphone which means the reach of mobile apps is extensive.
  • You can use mobile apps to establish an open and two-way communication channel with clients.
  • Sending “push notifications” via the app allows for targeted messaging.
  • The messages can be customized for a specific client.
  • Based on the kind of client responses, messages can be tweaked or further customized to ensure better client engagement.
  • You can inform clients about new services or provide additional information on essential issues.

A word of caution here: take care to not go overboard with your messaging. If however, the client is happy with receiving messages and open to this channel of communication, you can build on your client relationships and brand loyalty.