Satisfaction guaranteed

Back in February, Accountancy Age’s survey of client satisfaction levels of
audit firms made interesting reading. It revealed mid-tier practices stealing a
march on larger rivals by delivering better client service.

The challenge with measuring client satisfaction is that great service
delivery to one client can be viewed as ordinary by another. And what is
ordinary to one decision-maker will be failure to another.

This perception is determined by the client’s past experience, along with
their experience of individual advisers, and the business drivers they are
working with. A colleague of mine, Adrian Priddle, who helps evaluate the
satisfaction levels of accountancy firms’ clients suggests: “To know whether a
client is satisfied, you must first understand what shapes the benchmark they
are measuring you against. You then need to really listen when they give their

Adrian’s client satisfaction discussions reveal four key themes that firms
need to note. They are:

* What value do I get from this fee? Clients are using a variety of
approaches to reduce fees where they feel they represent little value. To avoid
this, firms need to discuss with each client what service elements are most
important to them.

* Consistency is key. This isn’t about the continuity of the client team –
although that’s important. Rather, it’s about being interested and involves
relevant (proactive) contact off deal, off audit and off assignment.

* Managing the balance between proactive and reactive. Are you waiting for
calls from clients so that you can concentrate on the problems they have? Or are
you developing ideas and taking these to them? It is possible to do both; but if
you’re only adopting the ‘reactive first’ approach then you can be sure a
competitor is opting for the proactive one.

* Give us innovation, but not in a ‘whacky’ way. Clients don’t want blue sky
thinking and revolutionary ideas from their advisers – they want practical ways
and proven approaches to reducing cost, minimising unnecessary outgoings (eg.
tax) and ideas on ways to protect or build their business without significant
risk or expense.

John Timperley is managing director of The Results Consultancy

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