WITH BUDGETS TIGHT and value for money paramount, clients are increasingly starting to question what added value they are getting from their advisers.
Accountants are under pressure to demonstrate the effort they are making to invest in the client relationship and how they are improving the client’s situation in some way.
Traditional ‘added value’ in terms of updates, seminars, alerts on issues and, for the larger practices, secondments and access to the firm’s knowledge are all useful. However, ‘added value’ is a term that’s used by many but means a range of different things.
So how can accountants ensure clients perceive they are getting added value from them and remain loyal? How do you deliver added value cost-effectively so margins aren’t squeezed?
There’s good news in the fact that different clients want different things from their advisers. It means you can balance different needs across your client portfolio. For example, what may seem a major added value aspect to one client may be viewed as irrelevant by another.
Clients invariably value accountants who:
* act as a trusted adviser and ‘sounding board’ for their ideas;
* keep them u- to-date on the issues likely to affect them;
* provide them with the personal support they need;
* invest non-chargeable time in understanding them – so that you can advise them at a higher level;
* give them referrals and contacts. Introducing your firm’s network
* spot important trends and personally alert them to the significance;
* help them to save money or be more efficient through different ways of doing things.
The trick is to get to know which of your clients want what and plan the delivery into your client management tactics and schedules. Discuss with your clients what value they currently see in the relationship and what they feel is missing. Don’t feel obliged to adopt a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach as this won’t keep everyone happy and you’ll probably squeeze your margins more than is necessary.
Believe me, in your firm right now you’ll have resources to give you some simple quick wins. For example, can you share support and resources, offer a source of ideas or business leads? Perhaps you could bring out some practical insights, commentaries, how to guides and up-to-the-minute hints and tips. The point is that your client is looking for you to give them something they’ll really value.
Look in the mirror. Do you know what real ‘added value’ is for each of your clients?
John Timperley is managing director at The Results Consultancy
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