Very few firms have ever formally survey their clients, and even fewer have a plan to solicit feedback on an independent firm-wide basis.
Some of the reasons given by accounting firms include:
- “The feedback won’t tell us anything we don’t already know.”
- “Now isn’t the right time.”
- “We’re too busy serving clients.”
- “We have no intention of changing.”
- Not wishing to give clients the opportunity of saying something that partners don’t want to hear. Many firms feel that feedback would set an expectation of change, and they would rather not set that expectation.
Another key reason why firms don’t solicit feedback is that they lack the ability to develop an appropriate, effective survey and are not prepared to investigate options for outsourcing.
When firms do have client surveys, they are usually too lengthy and in some cases more complicated to complete than a tax return. Clients are given too many questions and within those questions too many options.
On the other hand, firms who have conducted client surveys report:
- Being surprised at the response from clients – they recognised that they had never fully appreciated their clients’ views regarding their services.
- Identifying service improvements that could be implemented almost immediately – often at little or no cost to the firm.
- Referrals and requests for additional services
- Client requests for change of personnel (otherwise they would find another service provider)
- Improved profitability and cash flow. If a client keeps saying you’re doing great work, it is easier for them to pay your invoice quickly and in full.
Client surveys are undoubtedly a worthwhile investment. But here are a few words of caution, for when you conduct your client survey:
- Make sure you thank every client who responds
- Ensure you follow up any areas where a client expresses dissatisfaction
- Broadcast the results firm-wide with your proposed follow up action plan
- Consider carefully the format of the survey
- Consider what is an acceptable standard of service before you start. Is “adequate” the level you are striving for, or is “excellent” the standard you are seeking?