Client Service as a Team Sport
Every firm believes that exceptional client service is what sets them apart from the competition. But if every firm provides exceptional client service, then, by its definition, client service is not a differentiator.
When firms focus on the services they provide, such as tax, audit, or client accounting services, clients become fixed in one silo. A tax partner brought the client in so that client “belongs” to the tax department. Later, they’ll be referred to the audit department if they need an audit, but that tax partner maintains control and responsibility for the client relationship, whether or not they are the person best suited to servicing the client.
What if, instead of clients belonging to an individual, they belonged to the firm? Clients have all kinds of needs, challenges and goals. One partner may have brought them in the door because the client needed a tax return, but it’s a rare client who needs ONLY the service they called about and nothing more. However, in a firm that focuses on silos, the tax partner may never ask the questions that lead to finding out what the client really needs: audits, succession planning, outsourced CFO services, estate planning, IT consulting, wealth management, business valuation, etc.
So how can firms successfully transition to team-based client service?
Build good teams
The idea behind centralized client service is that much client contact can be effectively handled by a trained, dedicated staff member. In other words, not every client issue requires a CPA license, so it is possible for firms to build broad skill-based teams. Testing such as the Kolbe Index can help determine each team member’s unique abilities.
When teams are working efficiently, firms do a better job of utilizing people’s talents. Partners spend less time on administrative activities and project management. Younger team members are given more opportunities to develop, stretch and earn trust.
Good processes for data collection
A team-based client service approach won’t work if all client knowledge resides in the brain of one individual. Client-focused firms need good processes for collecting and sharing client information. Use a CRM system to keep track of all customer information and activity.
Regular client service team meetings
Service teams need to work to gain a thorough understanding of the client so the firm is proactive, rather than reactive, to client needs and problems. Hold weekly or bi-weekly team meetings to explore the interests of the firm’s clients.
When you work to build effective client service teams and have structures in place to make them successful, client service teams can be the best tools available to drive revenues and cross-selling of services. And they just might become that differentiator that sets your customer service apart from the competition.
As a Solutions Advisor for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Deanna Perkins works to help clients and prospective clients identify their dangers, opportunities and strengths. Once these are identified, she works to develop a personalized game plan for their firm to focus on the area, or areas, they need to improve on most. These areas are critical to a firm’s success and future-readiness; Leadership, Talent, Technology, Process and Growth.