Financial Planning | Leadership / Management | Organizational Development | Training & CPE

Client retention tops list of top issues for CPA firms

Dialogue _ relationship2 The economy has displaced staffing as the number one issue facing CPA firms, and client retention tops the list of issues facing firms of all sizes in the 2009 PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues Survey.

Also making a comeback are marketing / practice growth, which has not made the list since 2005.

Retaining staff continued in the top five for all groups except the smallest firms (two to five). Succession planning also stayed on the list from past years.

Here are the top five overall issues:

  1. Client retention
  2. Marketing / practice growth
  3. Tax law changes and complexity
  4. New regulations and standards for small firms / keeping up with standards
  5. Work / life balance initiatives

Mark Koziel, writing on the AICPA's Economic Crisis Resource Center Blog, has it right when he says client retention really comes back to client service. Here is an excerpt from his post:

"As firms grow increasingly concerned over losing clients, the firms who are surviving, maybe even thriving during this economy have found that client retention really comes back to client service. During the last few years, when firms were extremely busy, focusing on getting the work done became a greater priority than client service.

During these difficult times, companies can’t do enough to improve customer service and make sure they are serving, not only customer needs, but customer wants as well. The firms that are currently winning the race are doing just that. The successful firms are also meeting with current clients more frequently and staying in tune with client wants. The successful firms understand that in order to prevent the price shopping of accounting services, they need to be their clients’ trusted business adviser, not just another vendor."

Check out the latest resources from the AICPA PCPS in its Client Service Resource Center.

I can't help but mention how social media can play a role in helping to build stronger relationships that will lead to better client service and increased connections. Done right, these tools can help with client retention, marketing / practice growth, and keeping up with changes in standards and taxes. See my post, Leadership and social media for CPAs.

Finally, here are my top three ways to win and keep clients:

  1. Creating and maintaining "we" relationships with our customers (not "us" versus "them").
  2. Striving for those magnificent performances with every encounter (customer experience).
  3. Leading in a way that allows the greatness of every "mind" in your orchestra to give you their absolute best talents every day.

Three recommended summer reads to kick-start your relationship building activities are:

  1. Love is the Killer App, by Tim Sanders (one of my all-time favorites) and our post, Love is (still) the killer app)
  2. Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi
  3. We: The Ideal Customer Relationship, by Steve Yastrow (see our post and podcast with the author titled, Success is all about we

So, what are you doing to build better relationships?