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Show of hands: How many of you believe your clients are loyal?

Wow. That's a lot of hands.

That's not terribly surprising, though. We all want to believe our clients love us, right?

I've got some bad news for you, though: You're delusional.

Don't get mad at me — I'm just the messenger. The source of that bad news is Eric Gregg.

Gregg is founder and CEO of Inavero, a group that designs and manages client satisfaction surveys for customers in more than 15 countries. At the AICPA's 2012 Tech + Conference and Practitioners' Symposium in Las Vegas, Gregg cited some frightening stats:

  • Only 49 percent of clients are fully committed to staying with their current accounting firm.
  • Only 25 percent of clients say their primary accounting firm frequently exceeds their expectations.

What's causing those disconnects? Gregg pointed to three specific problems:

  1. A “partner service gap.” Client satisfaction is highest when clients work directly with a firm partner … and plunges when the partner is not available.
  2. A lack of responsiveness. “Clients expect immediate feedback,” Gregg said. “Don't wait until you have the perfect solution to respond.”
  3. We're not proactive enough. Make your clients' success your success, Gregg said. Help them when they don't need it. Most important, be the trusted advisor you're supposed to be. Recommend stuff that's not in your best interest from time to time.

“When a client is stressed, there are only two roles you can play — hero and villain,” Gregg said. “Be a hero. Ease their stress.”

Not surprisingly, Gregg suggested annual (or, better yet, twice-yearly) client satisfaction surveys as a way of gauging how well you're serving your clients' needs. A bit self-promotional on his part, true, but it's still good advice.

Gregg offers three best practices in the satisfaction survey arena:

  1. Keep your surveys short (10 questions or fewer).
  2. Send them to decision-makers and key influencers.
  3. Be sure to ask for a “New Promoter Score” — in other words, how likely the client is to recommend the firm to others.

Once the results of the survey come in, Gregg says you'll want to do the following:

  • Share (a) two results that you're proud of, (b) one potential problem, and (c) one idea for how you'll address the problem.
  • Have empathy for your clients' problems. Determine a reasonable response — and then go way beyond reasonable.

Finally, remember this:

“The greatest marketing you can do,” Gregg said, “is to offer an exceptional experience that lets you tell a great story.”

The truth now: How satisfied are your clients?

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