The other day, while chatting with my friend Renee and standing in line for coffee, an acquaintance appeared at our shoulders mid-sentence and dove right into his horror story of the day: he had just returned from an early morning dentist appointment, was in pain and uncomfortable, and his experience in the dentist’s chair was obviously unpleasant and unsatisfying. He clearly needed to share his misery with someone (anyone) immediately.
What does this have to do with accountants?
And how can accountants learn from my dentist? More than you might imagine at first glance, so read on for our reaction to this tale of woe and what your accounting firm can learn that will keep your clients from comparing you to a troublesome dental appointment.
As soon as he finished his unhappy tale, my friend and I both blurted out at the same time, “You should go to my dentist!” Laughing at the apparent irony that two out of three of us had had positive experiences with our dentists, we began comparing notes to determine what exactly our different dentists did that affected our perceptions so dramatically. Was it the technology? The relative ease of the procedures? The overall ambiance of the office environment? The magazines in the waiting room?
Renee and I agreed that (aside from maintaining an appropriate comfort level) what we both liked the best about our bi-annual dental experiences was that our hygienists always remembered our names, our kids’ names, what we did for a living and what we were up to at the time of our last visit. They always made an effort to be personable, friendly, and courteous. They made us feel welcome, put us at ease, and listened attentively.
We realized that we truly valued the extra effort that our hygienists took to make us feel comfortable, welcomed and to acknowledge the little things in our lives, despite the passage of time and oodles of patients that they had seen during the previous six months. It didn’t matter if our hygienists put notes in our charts after each visit and then read up on us mere minutes before our next appointment. We didn’t care how they were able to remember the things that they remembered. It simply mattered that they did remember and incorporated what they knew into what would otherwise be a sterile conversation. And they never pushed us on things we didn’t want (expensive bleaching trays or other cosmetic services). Plus, we got free toothbrushes and toothpaste at every visit.
Each of our dentists had hired the right people to not only provide the service we had come for, but also to nurture relationships, establishing a mini-community – right there, in the dental office.
Because of those two young women, Renee and I don’t dread our respective dental appointments. We might not actually look forward to them, but we don’t try to avoid them, either. And because of our positive experiences, we are eager to refer our grumpy acquaintance (and everyone else we know) to a new practitioner so that he could realize that going to the dentist can be a pleasure rather than a pain.
What can accountants learn from this story?
- Like the hygienists, treat all of your clients (not just the “biggest”) as valued guests and friends – make them feel welcome and comfortable.
- Get to know your clients – what they like, what they do, what services and financial products they have, and what they might need in the future; keep a database with notes that all members of your team (from the receptionist to the managing partner) can access whenever they come into contact with a client.
- Give clients something of value for free – it can be as simple as advice and estate planning strategies via a newsletter, or a free portfolio review.
- Engage with the community for reasons other than marketing and transactions – sponsor charities, attend functions, host webinars or open houses.
- Create an enjoyable experience and your clients will tell their friends about it.
Does this sound like too much for an accounting firm to do? It shouldn’t. There is an accounting firm specializing in family-owned businesses located in South Florida that offers a client lounge with free WiFi, coffee, and even a jukebox.
Can accountants learn from this model? Your firm doesn’t have to go that far. Start building your relationships and your community one touch at a time. Consider launching an email newsletter that offers strategies, tips and advice on topics that your firm’s clients will appreciate and value. Begin the dialogue with personal news about your firm and its associates, and solicit news and announcements from your clients to share. Perhaps success stories. Or testimonials.
If a dentist can build community around his brand, why can’t your accounting firm?
Yesterday, I made another referral to my dentist. He’s no doubt wondering why he has suddenly become so popular…