In today’s episode of ‘From the eLearning Trenches,’ we asked one of our learners, a sole practitioner in public practice, to identify the top 3 issues that they have in managing client relationships. What steps could they take to address these issues?
Off the top of my head, the 3 key issues I currently have with managing client relationships are:
- Re-engagement of existing clients
Rather than simply rolling over prior year service agreement proposal in Ignition I need to follow up each client verbally to re-review (1) scope: what client wants/anything missing from original service proposal (2) pricing (needs to be increased) (3) communications expectations – the point to do this is as part of tax planning process in May/June, so new proposal can start from the new financial year 1 July (most business clients are on monthly retainers).
- Communications (phone calls/emails)
I am a sole practitioner so most of the communications come from me, and this is the expectation of clients. However, the more mundane day to day accounting (e.g., quarterly PAYGI’s queries) can be done by my accounting assistant & this needs to be clearly communicated to clients I think as part of the re-engagement process, as it’s more costly and time consuming me doing these easier tasks.
- Providing more service options to clients within the engagement process
I need to start doing this more often: Ignition allows for you to choose between different service proposals, and I have done this once or twice only. I should start making this more consistent within the engagement process. This allows clients to have the understanding or what a higher-grade service would like look and what they would need to pay to have this. (e.g.: include a cost-base keeping arrangement for investment as an option or include monthly or quarterly business check-ins/reviews).
Feedback from our experts
These are all common issues with communicating with clients in a professional service environment. The sole practitioner has identified the importance of proactive communication with clients to better manage expectations of service delivery and also identify ways to add value. Of course, all of this makes sense, and most leaders of firms would probably say they already know this. The issue of course is that there can be a significant gap between knowing and doing!
Most firms still ‘roll over’ annual engagements under the assumption that this is all the client wants (or needs) in the year ahead. The only way to find out for sure is to do an annual review of scope of work and client needs. A discovery meeting is a great way to start this process.
If the primary client relationship manager assumes all responsibility for communication with the client, it’s not surprising that the relationship becomes reactive. The manager is spending all their time keeping up with workflow and probably not enough time in proactive engagement with the client. Strong admin support can help enormously to take away the stress of client relationship management.
The process of giving clients service options when engaging them is generally the best way to show to client clearly what’s included (and not included) in the scope of work. That way, the client is making the decision about the scope of work (and service fee) that they need and can afford. It also provides opportunity to discuss the value of additional services now or into the future.
Key take-away: Taking time to communicate proactively in relation to engagement and workflow can significantly improve client relationships and create great opportunities to provide additional services.
This assessment task and response is taken from the Ultimate Practice Manager eLearning course. Click here to explore this course
Also, take a look at the Client Concierge eLearning Course.
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