Now more than ever financial planning, accounting and other professional service providers are looking at ways they can automate their processes for efficiency. It’s important to remember though that as automation rises, customer service is likely to fall. It would be wrong of me to suggest that you don’t automate. Clearly, there are several cost and time benefits – some of which also benefit your client. But forgetting customer service in the race to automate might hinder your business more than it helps.
Because no matter how good the technology gets, relationships between people still matter!
The challenge for business owners and practice principals is to forge the right balance between personal relationships and technology.
Here are four ideas to help achieve the right balance for your business.
1. At every personal client touch point, don’t forget to have a chat about life.
Sure you’ve got to get the business done, but a five-minute chat about them, their family, their weekend or their next holiday all helps build a relationship. You might even find out something useful that you can provide advice on, add to your business life or even uncover a referral.
2. Add customer service technology to your mix, don’t just make it about back office processing.
Facetime, Skype, gotomeetings and the like can all be used to conduct client meetings. Of course, not all clients will enjoy this format, but if distance is a problem or clients are time poor, these solutions might help. Psychologists tell us that a significant amount of communication is non-verbal. Seeing a client, even over an internet meeting might help build a relationship perhaps more than just a phone call.
3. Make your website two-way communicate in real time.
At the time of writing the majority of professional advice websites only offer one-way communication. You might be able to submit a form to ask a question or make an appointment, but the reality is it’s not a real-time response. I recently discovered a new piece of WordPress technology that allows me to have a real-time chat with a web visitor. It appears on the bottom right-hand side of this website – see below. If I’m away, it turns into a small contact form.
In a professional advice practice, this technology could be given to a junior adviser or a receptionist to monitor during business hours and have a real time chat with prospective and maybe even existing clients. The only downside I can see is a potential client privacy issue. If they want personal client information, it’s probably best to call them to ensure you’re talking to who you think you are.
4. If customer service and satisfaction is important then measure and reward it.
Like most things in business, only the important stuff gets measured. With the development of online tools like Survey Monkey, Cient Heartbeat, Typeform, and Google Forms; creating and sending a client satisfaction survey and collecting the responses has never been easier or more cost effective. Most of these services have a mix of paid and free options.
Once you’ve collected your survey results, you’ve got a whole lot of information about how to improve it. Don’t forget to reward the positive behaviours too – it reinforces what you want to see more of within your business.
So when you’re adding new back office technologies and efficiencies, don’t forget about the clients view. After all, they are the ones that are keeping your business in business.