The key to success in any business is building lasting relationships with clients. For your tax firm, client satisfaction is extremely important so it’s important to spend a lot of time taking care of their needs. But what happens when managing clients takes up a lot of your time and energy? The best way to nurture and grow your relationships with each client when you are strapped for time—especially during tax season—is to practice efficient client management.
Effective client management will certainly improve your client’s experiences with your tax firm, and there’s no doubt it is important. But what exactly is client management? Essentially it is the way you manage the working relationship to ensure the highest quality of service and satisfaction. It includes discovering what the client needs from you and measuring how well you deliver on those needs. Using a combination of old-fashioned communication and modern technology, excellent client management is well within your reach.
Here are eight simple ways to manage clients effectively and bring positive change to your practice:
At your initial meeting with a client, be sure to ask what mode of communication works best for them and the best time to make contact. Your client will appreciate if you show concern for their preferences. This way, you're more likely to get a timely response and not have to keep asking them for the same information. Why keep emailing a client several times a week if they're likely to answer a phone call the first time? It’s all about communication and anticipating your client’s needs before they even know it themselves.
There are plenty of options when it comes to client relationship management (CRM) software. From tracking cases to automating follow up with clients, getting the right software is crucial for nurturing your professional relationships. CRM software keeps track of what’s happening, when clients need to be contacted, and what’s ahead. While electronic communication and follow up are an important part of client management, there are certain times when a phone call works best. For lengthy discussions with clients: always call, never email.
Effective follow-up is conducted as part of a routine rather than something that's only done when trying to close a client. For whatever reason you are doing follow-up, make sure it's automated. It's hard to remember to create and send new emails every time you need to follow up with a client. If you use a CRM software, you may be able to automate follow-up so the software will do it for you. You could potentially schedule all of a client's follow-up in one sitting and not have to revisit again for the week.
Canopy will send automated reminders and requests to your clients as often as you choose. Investing in software may be an additional cost, but the time you'll save will be invaluable as you grow your practice.
The more your client knows what to expect from the work you’ll be doing on their case, the less they’ll be concerned with contacting you just to check in. The more proactive you are with setting expectations, the less your clients will try to get away with behavior that pushes the limits of what’s acceptable in your working relationship.
If a client continually disregards your expectations, consider stopping casework for a time. For example, if you’ve requested forms from a client, give them a deadline for when those forms must be in and stop work on the case until you receive all needed forms.
In the name of staying organized and time-efficient, set aside time each week where you schedule your client management tasks for the week. During this uninterrupted time, focus on what each client needs from you that week. Do you have follow-ups to conduct, or are there several clients you need to call back? These and other tasks can be planned out for the week, so you stay organized and efficient.
Additionally, after you've included client management into your schedule, treat it as a hard deadline. When the time comes to complete the tasks you've scheduled, don't put them off for other work. Nurturing your relationships with clients is just as important as your other work.
Clients love client portals, and you will, too. Client portals allow clients to see the status of their case, as well as exchange documents and forms with you. Portals even allow clients to pay their outstanding balance. The whole process becomes quicker when information can be exchanged with the click of a button. Additionally, clients will be more likely to pay you in a timely manner if they can pay you online through their portal. You won't have to take the time to keep bothering a client for payment.
The transparency that comes along with client portals leads to improved efficiency. The more a client can see what you're doing on their case, the less you're calling, emailing, and meeting with them to answer questions. This leaves you with more time to complete work on their case.
Sometimes a client requests a service that is not what's most practical or best for their casework. Rather than spending your time, and your client's money, on work you know isn't going to turn out to be very fruitful, learn to say "no" to clients.
Of course, in the interest of client retention, you need to say "no" the right way. Whenever you turn down a client's request, offer a different solution and explain why it will be more beneficial to them. Jennifer Garcia, CEO and Partner at Red Bamboo Marketing, suggests the following as a template for saying "no" to clients:
"The compliment sandwich: 'Mr./Ms. Customer, I see where you are coming from, good idea... I think the best and most efficient strategy right now is X; let's put our emphasis in this area first, see results and then layer in other ideas.'"
It’s all too easy to commit to better client management practices but get overwhelmed when it comes to execution. It makes more sense to work smarter, not harder. Along with setting time aside to schedule your week, also set aside time each day to complete tasks using the best tools at your disposal. See if you can set aside some uninterrupted time each week to review each of your cases and decide what you can do to make each client’s experience with your firm the best it can be.
Canopy's client management software creates a more connected experience for your clients. Want to see it for yourself? Sign up for a demo today.