Make sure the new clients are happy

Mark Lee offer five simple ways to build your relationship with new clients at the on-boarding stage.

It’s one of those modern phrases that I don’t recall anyone using when I started training to be an accountant. Indeed, I don’t recall it being used at all during my 25 years in practice. Now though it’s a popular topic among consultants and software providers. The problem though is that ‘on boarding’ means different things to different people. As a result, advice on how to ‘onboard’ clients effectively varies enormously.

For the purpose of this short article let’s adopt my preferred definition: onboarding clients is all about getting clients to the stage that they are happy they chose you and you are able to start providing the services they require.

Here then are five simple tips to build your relationship with new clients at the onboarding stage:

1: Make it easy for them:

• Streamline your AML identity checks and make clear this isn’t you being difficult. It’s the law.

• Present clear fee quotes. These days most clients want to know what it’s going to cost to engage your services. Hourly rates don’t tell them enough.

• Be confident and friendly in your follow-up process so that prospects can become clients even if they are too busy to respond promptly.

2: Use client focused and friendly engagement letters:

• Your engagement letter is often the first formal communication a new client gets from you. What sort of impression do you want to give them? One that helps or one that hinders the building of a strong positive relationship?

There are thre distinct elements here:

• What work are you going to do for them?

• What will this cost and what are your payment terms? Monthly fees paid by Direct Debit are generally preferable to occasional big fee invoices.

• What are your terms and conditions? These could be on your website – they don’t need to bulk out a letter that stops it being client friendly.

3: Be clear about the information you require:

• The more specific you can be, the easier you make it for the client and the more likely they will feel confident they’ve made the right choice.

4: Address their key issues early on:

• Check your notes of that initial conversation to see what the prospective client said. What concerns and worries do they have about their accounting, business and tax affairs? What did they particularly want to happen as a result of appointing you? The sooner you get back to them on these things, the better. An email may help, or a meeting may be more appropriate. In either case, be clear when any additional work will result in an additional fee. Never send out fee notes that the client isn’t expecting.

5: Add them to all your internal systems as soon as possible:

• Ensure you have a standard process that means all new clients are correctly added to your firm’s systems for managing bookkeeping, tax and accounts progress, your CRM and practice management, as well as your time and fees system. The last thing you want is to overlook the relevant deadlines for new clients.

That last point simply summarises a range of activities you may need to pursue to onboard your new clients. Just ensure that you keep in mind the benefits of building a strong, positive relationship during this period.

• Mark Lee helps accountants who want to be more successful. ICPA members can access his free lead generation tips and more at www.bookmarklee.co.uk/icpa

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