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My foreign friends

What are the best ways to ensure overseas clients don’t feel distanced by distance?

Most accountants know that to build client loyalty you have to work hard to manage each client relationship and its nuances. You have to find ways to satisfy and add value to the client. Increasingly, though, UK accountants are winning business from overseas clients. This brings a different set of challenges and approach for cross-border client relationship management.

The trick with managing overseas relationships is to break down the distance barrier. Create the sensation of being close at hand by always offering help and providing links to information and contacts. Create a practical ‘memory jogger’ to ensure you make monthly or bi-monthly contact.   

As a good substitute for not meeting face-to-face, arrange a quarterly video conference or teleconference with a set agenda of info, enquiries, updates and sector news. Prior to each one, contact your client to get any special requests for information or focus.

Also consider including them on any relevant web seminar programmes you may be running. These don’t have to relate to your technical offering, but could be a broader business topic and one attended by teams on both sides to create a stronger sense of close support. Ensure all know-how is tailored or personalised in some way. Generic updates will only serve to exacerbate the client’s sense of distance and disassociation. 

Build into your programme of contact a couple of ‘off the cuff’ telephone calls, just to ask them how things are going. This will help dispel any sensation that out of sight is out of mind. Ask about their future movements to ensure you take advantage of their visits to your country or nearby. Early notice of these will help secure a spot for you in what is likely to be a busy diary and a short visit. Offer to show them around if their schedule allows. Likewise, tell them well in advance if you intend to visit their territory and make the most of the communication that you generate around this visit.

Finally, work hard to make connections for them in their country, be it business or social (just as you should with clients closer by). Think about information, trends, drivers and people that will be valuable for them to be aware of.

John Timperley is managing director at The Results Consultancy

 

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