Create loyalty by delighting your customers

"Welcome back." These two words recently made my day. You see, it was the greeting I received from a server at a restaurant inside one of America's busiest airports. Really, I'm not that easy to impress. This situation was notable because it was only my second time in this restaurant, and my previous visit was more than a month before.

When I first met Jim, he made it a point to introduce himself to me, and every one of his customers. I watched as he shook hands and engaged in small talk. He asked where his customers were from, where they were headed, and other trip-related questions. I appreciated the fact that he took care of me, made a great meal recommendation and was timely with the service.

When I returned to the restaurant last month, Jim welcomed me back and said, "It's good to see you again." He saw the shock on my face and apologized for not remembering my name. And while he didn't remember my name, he did know it was my second visit.

Jim's actions managed to turn an everyday service into an exceptional experience.

You Can Delight Your Clients

When you aim to delight your clients, you don't have to do anything fancy or expensive. You have to start by understanding the voice of the client. (For more information on how to do this, read about the Kano Model of Customer Satisfaction.) Jim clearly understands his customers well and knows what he needs to do to wow them.

Every firm can perform the most basic compliance services, like a tax return or audit. When you provide only a basic level service, clients take what you do for granted. The same thing could be said for delivering only the primary results your clients expect. Maximizing tax savings, limiting exposure and submitting timely audited financials are touted by most accounting firms.

The airport restaurant I visited faces many of the same challenges. Their customers have choices. On a basic level, servers need to take an order and get it right. And they need to deliver timely service. Jim was able to differentiate himself and his restaurant by operating as a delighter – wowing his customers with unexpected and surprising levels of service.

What's most impressive about Jim's action, and a true benefit to his employer? Jim was able to delight his customers without utilizing a lot more time or resources.

There are some basic fundamentals you have to have in place to serve your clients. You must have good processes and methodologies to deliver basic services and results. You must be efficient and effective since clients expect it. You have to perform quality work in a timely manner to make money. Once these basics are in place and you trust your process for delivering compliance services, you can really make the delighter services happen.

Be like "Jim"

If you constantly feel busy and overwhelmed by day-to-day activities, it's very difficult to operate like Jim. And why do you, and your staff, feel this way? It's because you have inadequate processes for your compliance work. Therefore, you can't even fathom operating at a delighter level. If you don't snap out of it, your competitors will gladly take some workload off your plate.

Recently, I shared this experience and my perception with a colleague. The story he told me in response reinforced the importance of delighting clients. You see, we just received great feedback from a large manufacturing client we obtained last year. The owner spent 30 minutes telling us how much additional value we have provided them above and beyond their prior accounting firm. Obviously, that competitor was only operating from a basic compliance standpoint.

Yes, you need to provide timely and high quality compliance services. But do you expect more of yourself? Do you think your clients deserve more? If so, you too can create a culture where you have a bunch of "Jims" operating within your firm. It's easy if you have improved your fundamentals.

The next time I'm at Boston Logan, I know where I'm going to for dinner. How many of your clients feel that same level of loyalty toward you?

Lean CPA
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