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Unifying Client Service



As your accounting firm’s business model evolves from traditional transactional and compliance services to include advisory and consulting services, it’s important to take a holistic approach to client service.


Unifying client service across your firm’s various service lines is essential for creating a seamless client experience that reinforces trust and value. Here are a few questions to guide your efforts to unify client service across your firm.


How do you approach client service when the client is shared across service lines?

Ideally, clients engage your firm for multiple services, such as tax, audit, advisory, wealth management, strategic planning, etc.


Understanding roles and responsibilities

Each service line plays a unique role in client service. Understanding and clearly defining these roles is critical. For example, while Audit focuses on financial reporting, Tax deals with optimizing the client’s tax obligations. Sometimes, these roles might overlap or complement one another.


Coordinating these roles is critical to ensure that all team members know their responsibilities and understand how their work intersects with and impacts another department.


Communication strategies

Effective communication is the backbone of seamless service delivery. Implement strategies to ensure different service lines have the information they need to serve clients properly.


For example, when Audit and Tax use an integrated workflow management platform, Auditors can notify the tax department when the client’s trial balance is finalized so Tax can start preparing tax returns.


Ensure consistency in communication by standardizing the messaging through training programs that emphasize the firm's approach to client service.


Conflict resolution

Conflicts between service lines can arise—particularly when different departments try to prioritize resources or client strategies.


Setting up a central decision-making body can help mitigate such conflicts by aligning all departments under a unified strategy. This body can also act as a mediator to resolve disputes impartially and maintain the focus on the client’s best interests.


When one department selects new software, how does this impact client service for other departments?

It’s easy to have blinders on when selecting new software for a particular department. However, these decisions can impact multiple service lines.


Impact of technology changes on service integration

When one service line adopts new technology, assessing the impact on other departments is vital.


For example, say Audit is evaluating new audit management software. Auditors may believe this solution only impacts their workflows. However, the tax department may need access to calculate deferred tax calculations, update tax disclosures, etc. It might also affect how tax advisors gather information to prepare returns.


Incorporating other service lines into technology decisions ensures everyone can provide input into how the new solution will affect their workflows and client data management. Collecting feedback from other service lines during the selection process and after implementation can help ensure the new solution meets the needs of the entire firm—not just one department.


Interdepartmental collaboration

Different departments must collaborate closely to ensure software transitions don’t disrupt client service. Establish regular update meetings and conduct joint training sessions on the new software to facilitate a smoother integration.


Evaluation of impact

Collect metrics to assess the impact of new technology and processes on client service and collaboration across the firm. These metrics might include response time to client queries, error rates in data handling, and client satisfaction scores.


How is client experience connected to client service?

Many organizations use the terms “client service” and “client experience” interchangeably, but there is a difference. The client experience encompasses all client interactions with a firm, from first learning about your services to engaging the firm and even ending their relationship with it.


Client service is a part of the client experience, but it focuses on delivering solutions and support that align with client expectations and needs.


Identifying key processes

Identify which processes in your service delivery most significantly impact client satisfaction. These processes could range from response times to phone calls, time from the end of audit fieldwork until the financial statements are issued, or invoicing for a tax engagement.


Once you identify these critical processes, look for ways to improve them. This will help you focus your process improvement efforts on areas that have the greatest impact on client service.


Client feedback utilization

Regularly gather and analyze client feedback about your processes and integrate this feedback into service improvements to address gaps or shortcomings.


Cross-departmental collaboration

Encouraging collaboration across different departments can significantly enhance service delivery. For example, you might schedule a joint workshop to explore how different departments can work together more effectively to enhance overall client service and improve the client experience.


Shared objectives help align different teams toward common goals.


Unifying client service across various service lines will enhance operational efficiency in your firm and benefit client satisfaction and loyalty. As your firm continues to expand its service offerings, integrating these elements into a cohesive strategy will help you maintain a competitive advantage and drive long-term success.

 

Do you want to connect with other Managing Partners in the accounting profession to improve performance and grow your firm? 


The Boomer Managing Partner Circle is a peer group of Managing Partners from successful and growing firms. Apply now to gain a network of trusted peers to call on as you shape your firm for the future.  


 

As Shareholder and Chief Operating Officer for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Arianna Campbell helps accounting firms focus on the people part of change by leading process improvement initiatives that increase capacity to create more value internally and externally. Arianna is adept at blending concepts from process improvement and change leadership to drive innovation and continuous improvement.

Arianna facilitates the development and cultivation of Process Managers, Project Managers and Change Leaders in the Boomer Process Circle.

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