Happy clients pay
sooner – and more
But first you have to make them happy
By august aquila
Experience has shown that clients who are satisfied with your
service pay and will pay quicker than those who are not satisfied. the second part of my experience is that if you can make
money for your clients, they will pay you even more. While most
firms today are concerned about client satisfaction and loyalty,
few have a goal of making more money for their clients.
tain amount of stress on the service provider,
it is critical that you allocate time during the
day and even weekends to respond to client
requests. If a client contacts you on the weekend, you should assume that it’s important
and respond immediately.
3. Value for fees. Value is in the eyes of
the client. A client pays $800 for a tax return
preparation, and she wonders what value
(benefits) she received for what she just paid.
The value may just be peace of mind, rather
than any actual tax savings. It’s up to you to
constantly explain the benefits the client is
receiving, and not spend time explaining how
you do things.
4. Accuracy. Mistakes in one area, such as
typos, sloppy reports, etc., give the perception of mistakes in other areas. While your
quality of advice may be superior, the lack of
accuracy in your reports gets the client thinking about the overall quality and accuracy of
5. Timeliness. Doing what you said you
would do and doing it on time. Meeting client
expectations for turn-around and delivery is
a key component for making a client happy.
Each client has different expectations. You
need to ask each client what they expect from
6. Specialized knowledge. The more specialized knowledge you have, the more satisfied the client tends to be. Specialization
is the buzz word of the day. Clients want to
know that you have more than just general tax
or accounting knowledge. They want you to
understand their industry or niche issue.
There is one critical element that is missing
from this list and I would suggest that it is how
much more profitable you made the client
during the last year. How would focusing on
client profitability change the way you operate, the way you compensate owners and the
firm’s net income?
Imagine how your entire firm would now
operate and the skills that owners would
have to develop in order to implement such
a strategy. In this new world, an A client
would be one where you have been very
successful in helping the client improve
their profitability. They would tell you that
they are making more money than they ever
B clients are improving but still have a
way to go and the C clients need a lot of help.
Wouldn’t you want your firm to be known as
the firm that makes its clients richer?
The important thing about this rating
is that it puts the emphasis on the client’s
profitability and not on the fees that the firm
charges. You cannot develop best-in-class
client service when you are just thinking
What makes clients happy?
Based on my personal experience and research I have seen, there are several factors
that make clients happy. Here are the most
common ones mentioned:
August Aquila helps CPA firms improve
their operations by focusing on leadership,
compensation design issues, mergers and
overall partner issues. Reach him at (952)
930-1295 or email@example.com.
1. Communication. The more you communicate with clients, the happier they will
be. It seems that you can never have enough
communication with clients, provided it is always client-centered. In other words, you always want to be discussing the client’s needs
and concerns, not your services.
2. Responsiveness. In today’s world of
24/7, clients expect and demand even more
responsiveness to their calls, e-mails and
even text messages. While this can pose a cer-
FOCUS ON THEIR PROFITABILITY
The traditional way of ranking firm clients
TURNING WORDS INTO ACTION
is inward-looking. “A” clients are those who
pay us the most, “B” clients fall next in line
and “C” clients last. But there is another way
of looking at your clients, and it’s outward-
rather than inward-looking
If you really want to make your clients hap-
py, make them more money, save them from
poor business mistakes and provide them the
comfort to sleep well at night. One of the most
important activities an owner of a firm can do
is to figure out how to make their clients more
successful, and then implement that plan.
Unless your compensation system is tied into
the profitability of your clients, you won’t be
able to change the existing culture in the firm.
You would think that owners would realize
that by helping their clients succeed, they
would be making more money for themselves. Sure sounds like a win-win situation
to me. Why then is it hard for firms to make
First of all, this criterion is not usually part
of partner compensation. So the first thing
you need to do is add it to the list. Second,
you need to set up measures and targets for
determining success. For example:
Did the service save the client from pay-
ing additional taxes or reduce estate taxes?
Did it improve productivity?
Since most CPA firms work with closely
held or family-held businesses, how well do
you understand the client’s personal and
business needs? What happens to the business also happens to the individual.
Did your service save the client from an
unpleasant or costly situation? You assist
your client in exiting a business and save
him not only a lot of money but also much
Many accountants don’t think they can
have an impact on their client’s profitability.
While only 20 percent of the work we do can
have such an impact, we need to focus more
on doing that type of work than the traditional
compliance work. Henry Ford said, “Whether
a man thinks he can or thinks he can’t, he’s
probably right.” We need to start thinking that
we can. Develop the new skills and start providing them to your clients! AT