Client Relationship Management has been around for some time, and the practical side for accounting firms has mainly been focused on marketing and sales…
But modern CRM is actually more about moulding your processes and the way you understand your clients. If implemented well, this can help drive value and efficiencies in a variety of useful and meaningful ways.
Given the huge positive impact that Xero and the broader app community has had on the workflows of clients, it’s definitely time to reassess, or in some cases define, workflows within the practice itself.
After working with firms globally on establishing practice management and great workflows using Senta, we have come to realise that there are many common themes, so here are some practical steps that you can take – regardless of whether you use Senta or another system.
Reassessing and formalising workflows
- New client process
Write down exactly what you do when you take on a new client, and spot the patterns. Usually there are things that you will do for everyone (terms of engagement letter, setting up on systems) and some that you will need to complete for those with specific services.
However it’s important to log and record the softer activities as well. These could be welcome calls by an account manager, a monthly check in, or even a prompt to send a small gift after three months. Mapping this out step by step allows you to look again at what is useful to the client, and also to make sure there is a common approach.
- Gaining client feedback
Asking clients where we could have done better can be intimidating, but it does provide a great way to make improvements to services, and gives clients a sense of how important the relationship you have with them is. Using this kind of feedback to shape the way you work with clients can be invaluable.
- Automating repeat emails
Highly repetitive tasks that are time consuming and not reliant on specific skills or experience are prime candidates for automation. Chasing emails are good examples: these can be sent for as long as needed, often escalating in tone, asking for information to be sent in order to be able to complete a service task.
Creating a workflow that takes this away from your daily activity can allow you to focus on more important tasks and can be controlled so as to not annoy or antagonise clients.
- Small client details that make the difference
We’ve seen Senta used to record some incredible details about clients that can make such a difference to the client’s experience – alongside the more mundane tax codes, citizen reference numbers, company numbers and so on. Some great examples are recording individual drinks preference, whether clients usually need a car parking space, and family information. These are small things, but they’re details that can create an amazing impression when you don’t need to ask.
- Business development: creating a pattern to follow
Adding some rigour to recording and managing leads, and even automating requests for referrals, helps to ensure that no opportunities slip between the cracks. Plus, recording what clients might need in the future is not taking a hard sales approach; it demonstrates that you are aware and alive to how your clients’ needs might change over time.
- Don’t forget the soft stuff
Thinking about client service calls, adding in touch-points, or asking for feedback helps to make the processes you create more human. Conversation and person to person contact is part of the essential glue that builds your reputation as a trusted adviser. By consciously building this into your workflow you can change a hidden task into an opportunity to demonstrate your additional value.
- Don’t be dictated to by app workflows
Apps can be needy! If you have a client dashboard, or two, then it can create a lot of alerts and notifications which are not necessarily prioritised or even significant. Using your own service workflows as the primary source behind what needs to be completed will help keep everyone on track.
- Look for opportunities to remove steps and technology
And finally, take every opportunity to simplify. Taking out needless steps or automating is a key part of this, but so is controlling the amount of technology you use. A good example in Senta is by having an integrated document management system which also includes digital signing – much easier than using separate systems.
Starting with your workflows and thinking about the granular tasks, is incredibly powerful stuff! But the ability to inject the human element turns this mapping exercise into something really quite different.
Most firms offer very similar services, so it is the differences in how those services are delivered, for whom, and why, that allow business owners to choose one firm over another. Your systems and your interaction with clients are very much part of the mix that helps you be of unique value.
For us, workflows are part of the fabric and personality of the firm, and we think they deserve to be a key part of your client relationship management toolkit.