Survey Analyzes Client Satisfaction Trends with 360 View from Accounting Firms and the Business Clients They Serve
What are the key components to client satisfaction? And what are the key attributes that clients look for when choosing an accounting firm? These are some of the key questions analyzed in the 2016 Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting survey and white paper, “Game Plan for the Future: Are You and Your Clients in Sync?”
Jason Marx, CEO of Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting North America, presented survey details during this morning’s keynote address to tax and accounting professionals attending the CCH Connections User Conference 2016 in Washington, D.C. — one of the accounting profession’s premier educational and peer networking events of the year. The independent, nationwide survey, conducted in August by the Aberdeen Group, surveyed professionals from 331 tax and accounting firms and 358 clients of firms about client service, the focus of which has been identified as a top priority in previous Wolters Kluwer white papers.
“This year’s survey provides a stark reality in that, at any given time, nearly one third of a firm’s clients could walk out the door. This indicates a critical need for firms to analyze how they are doing business today and where they need to improve to meet clients’ expectations,” said Marx.
The survey finds that firms with satisfied customers expect an average 7% improvement in revenue over the next year while firms with dissatisfied clients actually predict their revenue to decrease by 11% over that time frame. The firms that have invested in an integrated end-to-end solution see a significant impact, with higher satisfaction ratings (81%) versus those firms that do not use an integrated end to-end solution (66%).
Based on the survey findings, the white paper reveals a game plan of strategic priorities that firms can employ to help ensure client satisfaction and potentially reduce the risk of client turnover. These priorities include:
1. Execute the basics well
According to the survey, the top criteria clients cite for choosing a firm is technical expertise, or an in-depth knowledge of tax law and accounting regulations. In fact, 44% of clients report that staying abreast of the ever-changing regulatory landscape is one of the top factors that will most impact their relationship with their accounting firms, while only 22% of accounting firms say the same. Focusing on the key basics that clients are looking for can help firms stay ahead and proactively demonstrate how they can better meet the needs of their clients.
2. Use technology to support client service
In another key survey finding, timeliness and quality of services top the list of significant factors for selecting a firm, at 37%. On the other hand, fewer than half of the firms surveyed said that they currently have enough staff to meet client needs. This reality indicates a significant challenge for firms when it comes to meeting the expectations of clients. The survey found that successful firms with extremely satisfied clients use technology to streamline and automate workflows throughout the firm. Top technologies cited by firms to assist in client/firm relationships include:
- Cloud-based software that allows for remote work on laptops or desktop computers (cited by both firms and clients as the number one answer)
- Software architecture that allows the integration of various firm functions
- Time-saving solutions that increase firm efficiency
- Mobile technology such as tablets and smartphones
“In today’s competitive landscape, both the assurance work and the corporate tax work processes need to be highly automated and streamlined to allow all modern firms to efficiently and effectively complete the compliance aspects of their jobs, while leaving their staff adequate time to focus on driving value,” said Garrett Wagner, CPA, CITP and Business Therapist at Thaney & Associates CPAs PC.
Added Wesley Middleton, CPA and Managing Partner at MiddletonRaines+Zapata, LLP: “I believe that the more we can utilize and leverage technology, the better we are going to be able to serve our clients. It doesn’t matter if you’re a one-man shop, or have 10 or 15 people, or you’re our size or larger. You can have a high-tech environment and have that remote access that people want and expect.”
3. Improve communication and meet with clients more frequently
When asked about factors driving them to seek another accounting firm, 35% of clients cite poor communications as a key factor. The survey shows that when clients find it difficult to get answers from their firms, they may leave and find their answers at another firm. Notably, 75% of satisfied clients expect their firm to respond within 24 hours.
4. Add higher-value services
Clients that use a wider variety of services from their tax and accounting firms are more likely to report themselves as satisfied. Seventy-six percent of those clients using four or more services reported being satisfied, in comparison to only 50% for those using fewer than four services. At the same time, clients that use four or more services are twice as likely to believe that a tax and accounting firm can provide significant impact to the overall success of a business.
Marx continued: “By focusing on the trends and relationship expectations cited in this survey – including better communications, strengthening and promoting a firm’s technical expertise and industry knowledge, and leveraging the latest technology to help automate workflows and ease the burden on staff – firms can focus on developing proactive strategies to improve their service, maintain stronger client relationships and recognize an increase in their bottom line.”
For More Information
The “Game Plan for the Future: Are You and Your Clients in Sync?” white paper is now available. Download it for free at here.
About Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting
Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting is a leading provider of software solutions and local expertise that helps tax, accounting, and audit professionals research and navigate complex regulations, comply with legislation, manage their businesses and advise clients with speed, accuracy and efficiency.
Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting is part of Wolters Kluwer N.V. (AEX: WKL), a global leader in information services and solutions for professionals in the health, tax and accounting, risk and compliance, finance and legal sectors. We help our customers make critical decisions every day by providing expert solutions that combine deep domain knowledge with specialized technology and services.
Wolters Kluwer reported 2015 annual revenues of €4.2 billion. The company, headquartered in Alphen aan den Rijn, the Netherlands, serves customers in over 180 countries, maintains operations in over 40 countries and employs 19,000 people worldwide.
Wolters Kluwer shares are listed on Euronext Amsterdam (WKL) and are included in the AEX and Euronext 100 indices. Wolters Kluwer has a sponsored Level 1 American Depositary Receipt program. The ADRs are traded on the over-the-counter market in the U.S. (WTKWY).