If you’re in the professional services industry, take a step back and watch what’s happening in the banking industry right now. As of this writing in late March 2023, two banks have failed in the US, and the FDIC stepped in to support the depositors, making them whole. This means the money was not lost per se but rather inconvenienced momentarily.
However, in the week following, over 120 billion dollars flowed back into the nation’s top 25 biggest banks.
This should scream to you that consumer confidence is the most important aspect of the client relationship. Period.
Using banking as an example, customers are always on the lookout for the best deals. They want the lowest interest rates on loans, the highest interest rates on savings and the best customer service. This is why many customers opt for local and regional banks. These institutions often offer better rates and more personalized service than larger banks.
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However, when the economy takes a turn for the worse, and a couple of small banks fail, it can quickly shake customers’ confidence. Suddenly, the safety and security of their funds become the priority, and they run back to the big banks they once avoided and likely still loathe.
Need more examples? If you’re hiring a CPA for your company’s tax return, what’s more important: customer service and friendliness or your tax bill? Would you feel okay paying more in tax if they responded to your emails and were friendly? Probably not.
How about this — if you were wrongly accused of a crime and needed to hire a defense attorney, which is more important? Hourly fees, customer service or the ability to get you out of jail. See what I’m saying now?
The worst part of all this is that the overwhelming majority of local or regional banks are probably doing just fine. All it took to move all those billions of dollars back to the big banks was the mere thought of a small chance of failure (even though it’s still FDIC insured). The slightest sliver of doubt sent them running back to the perceived safety (and horrible service and rates) of big banks without even giving the local guys a chance to defend themselves.
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In banking, law and all professional services, confidence must come first, followed by customer service. Clients are willing to overlook customer service issues if they have confidence in the provider’s ability to deliver results. This is not to say that customer service is not important. It is crucial in building and maintaining client relationships. However, it is not the primary driver of the client’s decision-making process. I always say, “People work with people they like,” but I should add that they only work with people they know can get the job done, then they pick the one they like most.
So, how can professional service providers build and maintain client confidence? There are a few key strategies that can be employed:
1. Build a strong reputation. Reputation is everything in the professional services industry. A provider’s reputation is built on their track record of delivering results, expertise and ability to meet client needs.
Saved a client some money on their taxes? — make sure you tell everyone you know.
Win a big case? — tell everyone you know! Spread the word!
2. Communicate often. This transparency can help build trust and confidence in the provider’s ability to deliver results. Taking a personalized approach and communicating frequently can show clients that they are important and that their needs are being met.
3. Embrace technology. Like it or not, technology is changing how professional services are delivered. By embracing technology, you stay current in the world. This also instills confidence that you’re able to keep up in the changing world and are at the forefront of your industry. That CPA that “doesn’t do email” probably isn’t as up-to-date on recent tax law changes either.
Remember to be the person they trust; then be the person they like.