It's impossible not to notice how the times are affecting state, U.S. and world economies. While I cannot speak specifically to economic concerns and how to navigate them, I can vouch for the vitality of client service both within and outside firms in these challenging times. Now is the time to consider how emphases on relationship building, training, technology and processes can nurture a firm's most prized assets: its clients and employees. When you do, these difficult times can present great opportunities to amplify not only morale and productivity but also profits.
Client service within and outside the firm is a distinguishing characteristic at all times—and especially when times are tough. Your clients are just as concerned about the economy as you are. Listen to what they say and identify what they need—then act upon this information. A great relationship will help keep their business and generate positive word of mouth about your organization. Best of all, offering good client service does not usually cost a thing.
Acquiring new clients is expensive, so reinforce those you already have instead. Identify your firm's best clients and work extra hard to meet their needs. You can also cross-sell to existing clients and reach out to those no longer with you. Showing concern and an interest in relationships will invariably net your firm business that it was not expecting.
Don't neglect to call people by name, listen when they speak and seek to understand when they have a complaint (and let them vent before responding). Consider asking them to fill out a survey. Clients will be more likely to stay if they feel that they are heard and see results after expressing their concerns.
Also be certain to make good use of your website. Offer relevant, timely information and keep it updated. Everyone likes to see something new!
Your firm reaps at least five hours of production for every one hour it invests in training. Higher productivity in all areas translates to more time for client interaction and service. As such, it is crucial that each firm employee document a PDP (Personal Development Plan) that takes into account one's unique abilities and opportunities for growth.
Boomer Consulting identifies each employee’s unique abilities using the Kolbe A™ Index and assigns duties based upon the results. The idea is to let each individual work in a way that is most satisfying for that person. Doing so maximizes individual resourcefulness while boosting morale and productivity.
Encourage each employee to think creatively about opportunities and document a plan to develop one's strengths, build upon opportunities and mitigate the dangers. (It was an eye-opening experience for me to identify and document the greatest dangers related to my position.)
I love tools that make my job easier and more efficient, so I relish the ongoing technology enhancements offered by our IT department (with the encouragement of our executive team). As your firm evaluates how to better service its clients during and after tax season, don't neglect improved IT solutions. Research and apply the most cost-effective IT means to enhancing worker efficiency and morale.
Making everyday functions within the firm more efficient benefits your clients in far more ways than you know. Survey your staff and let them evaluate the effectiveness of each process and system used during tax season and throughout the year. What can the firm do through improved processes to enhance the client experience in the future?
Finally, be certain each employee is in the right position and recognize those who go above and beyond. Brooks Mitchell, who worked as a behavioral psychologist before founding Snowfly, notes that if an employer spends 1.5% to 3% of an employee’s base salary on a reward program of some sort, it translates into a 20-25% improvement in productivity.