IN OUR OPINION, PERSPECTIVE #100 — January 6, 2020
(A Continuing Series for Leading CPA Firms)
“To be a Standout Firm – Creating Client-Centricity”
“Good customer (client) service begins at the top.
If your senior people don’t get it, even
the strongest links further down the line
can become compromised”. —Richard Branson
“Every contact we have with a customer (client)
influences whether or not they’ll come
back. We have to be great every time or
we’ll lose them”. — Kevin Stirtz
This is the seventh in a series about successfully transitioning to a stand-out Professional Services Firm. We will continue our deeper dive into client-centricity (third principal) and our journey to create a standout professional services firm. In our previous perspective, our Managing Partner shared the four internal challenges the firm needed to address to become client-centric. Those four challenges were internally focused and once addressed, would create the client-centric foundation for the firm’s systems and processes. Now she needed to address the more difficult challenge of making client-centricity not only a reality within her firm but a reality for its clients.
As she starts to think through what the focus of the next partners’ meeting will be, she realizes that she needs more than just the partners to fully buy-in to the concept of client-centricity. She invites all the managers and directors in the firm to join the next meeting.
As she starts the meeting, she again states to everyone the firm’s aspirational goal – to be a client-centric standout professional services firm. She briefly summarizes for the first-time attendees the previous discussions around this central theme to get everyone at a common level of understanding.
“Now that we are all focused on our goal of client centricity, let me restate a quote by Peter Fader who defines a client-centric model as (I modified it slightly) “a client-centric model is based not on expertise in the realm of services provided, but rather on a deep understanding of what clients actually want, when and how they want it, and what they’re willing to give you in exchange”. So simple a statement; yet our firm like most have missed the mark and focus not on what our clients want and are willing to pay for, but what we deem as great service. It’s no wonder we are a commodity, price-driven firm (and profession) versus a value-driven firm. Today we are not a firm that really understands what clients want, when and how they want it and how THEY, not us, assign a value (price) to what we deliver”.
“So, the challenge is how do we make client-centricity the hub around which operates on a day to day basis? How do we move from talking about client service and client-centricity to actually living it day in and day out in such a way that our clients value our firm, they value the advice we give are willing to pay a fair price? When we solve this challenge, which we will, not only will our economics significantly improve but more importantly our clients will stick to us like glue and be our greatest cheerleaders”.
”Client-centricity starts at the top. Every person involved in any aspect of firm leadership, which is many of you in this room, needs to get it, believe it, live it, deliver it, expect it from everyone and be 100% committed to it. Our Client Experience Team (CET) with me as the Client Experience Officer will lead and drive every aspect of our firm towards client-centricity making it what our firm reflects and not what it hopes to be.
- We will structure client success teams for every A and B client which will be the team charged with delivering value-based services to each client.
- We will implement a process that will require every Team to create a client annual success plan for every A and B client which the CET along with myself will review.
- Each partner (team leader) will review each plan with their clients to ensure that it reflects their wants, their delivery expectations, deliverables that they value and agreement on what they are willing to pay.
- We will create a client scorecard based on the above plan and monitor it on a quarterly basis with each team leader.
- Members of the CET will meet annually with every A and B client to get their feedback on how we did against our plan, what we could do better and if we fell short, how can we adapt to ensure that the client experience gets stronger
- We will evaluate our client service via a new metric – client-centricity score comprised of
- New A and B clients won
- ACR (cash collected divided by production hours)
- # of touches (calls, face to face, interesting informative articles, etc.)
- Churn rate
- Net promoter score
- We will have an annual client experience summit where we will spend 2 days in a deep dive focused on how we can improve our client-centricity and value delivery to every client
We will all be held accountable to an acceptable client-centricity score by the team and for the firm as a whole.
“We need to ensure that every contact we have with our clients is focused on their success, what they want and need. We need to ensure that what we deliver is valued by the client”.
“I want to repeat what I said at our last meeting regarding how we will know we are truly client-centric. Simply put, when our clients rely on and seek input from us on every business challenge they are experiencing and we are able to provide insightful advice which they value, we are client-centric”.
In Our Opinion, for any firm that wants to stand out and be client-centric, firm leadership needs to follow the roadmap laid out in this and previous articles. It needs to start with leadership and flow through the very fabric of the firm so that every action taken is first and foremost evaluated through the filter of the client and the client’s success.
Creating a client-centric, stand out firm is not an easy or a quick transformation, but it is a road every firm that aspires to standout must travel. It requires leadership and an accountability model that gives power to the client-centric model so that slippages from client-centricity are addressed quickly and without excuses. To repeat an old saying, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. NO different here – our success in creating and maintaining a client-centric firm is only as strong as our weakest link. And so, it is incumbent on every firm’s Managing Partner to constantly assess where that weakest link is, strengthen it or remove it.
Tony Zecca (CPA and retired CohnReznick partner and National Director of the Advisory Group) is a ESPOSITO CEO2CEO consultant who is brought into client assignments for his skill in strategy, growth and transformation . ESPOSITO CEO2CEO, LLC — a boutique advisory firm consulting to leading CPA and other professional services firms on strategy, succession planning and mergers, acquisitions and integration is actively led by Dom Esposito, CPA. Dom, voted as one of the most influential people in the profession for two consecutive years by Accounting Today, authored a book, published by www.CPATrendlines.com., entitled “8 Steps to Great” which is a primer for CEOs, managing partners and other senior partners. In Our Opinion, is a continuing series of perspectives for leading CPA firms where Dom and his colleagues share insights, experiences and wisdom with firm leaders who want to “run with the big dogs” and develop their firms into sustainable brands. Dom welcomes questions and can be contacted at either firstname.lastname@example.org or 203.292.3277.