It never ceases to amaze me how much information can be gleaned by using research (often in the form of surveys). The information can be so helpful; other than the cost and time needed to get it right, it’s hard to understand why we don’t use this research more often.
For example, I can think of three types of surveys conducted over the past 30 years, where we have had the good fortune of working with accountancy firms that have helped forward thinking firms exceed their expectations and become far more successful in the following:
1. Understanding the research behind what clients consider when they are thinking of changing their accountant
2. The key performance indicators of profitability using benchmarking surveys
3. Client satisfaction surveys – “What do most top (entrepreneurial) clients care about when they are dealing with accountants and how do we stack up?”
Issues which entrepreneurs consider when they are thinking of changing their accountant has not changed since research shown in the 1960’s. The top three issues which we should question and incorporate within our sales and marketing strategy are:
1. Are you specialised in the services that the client wants to buy (could be specialised by industry)?
2. Have you been recommended?
3. Are you showing an interest in the client and/or their business?
This research has pointed clearly to the fact that if we demonstrate niche expertise by service and/or by industry, clients will be more interested in working with us. This is one of the reasons why niche marketing has proven to be a most successful strategy for accounting firms.
Benchmarking surveys have been used over the years to some limited extent. At 2020, we have worked with some of the most profitable independent firms in the world and when we survey these firms, we begin to understand the factors that contribute to higher profitability and success.
1. The main attributes of profitability include:
2. Fees per partner
3. Fee earners per partner
4. Chargeable hours
Those firms that have developed niches (normally by industry), have proven to be faster growing with increased team loyalty, have created a champion culture, and as a result, have attracted better talent and so the virtuous cycle continues.
Client satisfaction surveys have been a flagship service offered by 2020 for over 30 years, whereby we survey the top 50 (entrepreneurial) clients of independent accounting firms. The results have fundamentally never changed in over 30 years and those firms that actually address the top three issues that most clients care about, most of the time are unsurprisingly, the firms that seem to do better in the following:
1. Timeliness. A timely service is not a quicker service but is always on time. This includes responding to emails, telephone calls and social media communications, as well as meeting deadlines (but note, not necessarily the regulatory deadlines).
2. Understanding fees. Firms are beginning to address this better, but still we find a great deal of clients finding that they simply don’t understand where and how the fees are calculated and therefore, are often not agreed in advance which is still surprising to many of us.
3. Showing an interest in the clients and not being reactive. This issue relates strongly to the research and what potential clients consider when they are thinking of changing accountants (see above).
Overall, if you take these three items and recognise that most clients consider them to be very important most of the time, then client satisfaction, referrals, cross-selling additional services and fees per client will be greater.
As we have now been through a revolutionary pandemic, 2020 Innovation launched their ‘Inside Accountancy Practices Benchmark Survey 2021’ in October to try and establish the new regime, cultures, and statistics most profitable firms are aspiring to. Whilst the survey is now closed, you will be able to access the data report from the 18th November 2021 and gain insight on the changes and opportunities shaping the industry today.
Metrics covered in the report include both quantitative and qualitative data such as the mix of services offered, clients, productivity, remuneration, equity partners, costs, key challenges, future plans and more!
The key findings will be released at the 2020 Annual Conference on 17th November. If your firm didn’t complete the survey you can register your interest here to purchase your copy of ‘Inside Accountancy Practices Benchmark Report 2021’.
Note: If you took part in the benchmarking survey, you will automatically receive your bespoke report from the 18th November 2021.