At many tax and accounting firms, the processes and workflows around client service are usually top notch. Accountants are experts in providing these services and do well with executing them on a regular basis. However, when it comes to sales and onboarding, accountants often struggle with creating a workflow that guides their clients through the process, while providing a great client experience. At Lance CPA Group, we have developed, streamlined, and automated our sales and onboarding services with the following five steps.
Step 1: Understand your customer’s journey
In order to streamline and automate your sales and onboarding workflows, you need to get inside the mind of your customer to build out a workflow that provides a great experience. A customer journey map traces four distinct phases:
- Awareness. In this phase, the prospect knows they are in need of an accountant and is doing the work to become aware of their choices. They may talk to peers, do a Google search for accountants who are nearby or serve their industry, check out some websites they have found or have heard of, or search social media. At this point, they are trying to gather information to make an informed decision.
- Consideration and purchase. Your prospects have narrowed down the accountants they want to talk with, and started to meet with them to obtain proposals, assess prices, and determine a right fit. Prospects will then make the purchase decision based on the factors they deem most important. This phase lines up with your sales phase, so it’s important to understand the process that the prospect goes through because it can help you improve your sales process.
- Onboarding. This is when the client is trusting you to take care of them, as well as the phase of the journey where they may experience buyer’s remorse if they quickly lose trust in you. You’ll need to handle this phase with care; a poor onboarding experience may doom your relationship.
- Service and advocacy. Your client is expecting you to deliver what you sold. You should be serving them well and delighting them. In turn, they will be an advocate for you and will start referring business to your firm.
In understanding your customer’s journey, you are able to craft a better experience by designing your processes and workflows to meet and exceed their needs. Too often, I see firms focus on how the process works internally versus how the customer experiences it. A workflow that only works for your firm will cause your clients to make a quick exit or not feel cared for.
Step 2: Map your existing workflows
Document your workflows as they exist today, even if you know you are going to change them. You can do this visually using whiteboard software such as Miro, or listing out each step. It’s important that you don’t start trying to tweak your workflows until you have documented them in full. By doing this, you can get a bird’s-eye view of your workflows as they exist. You can clearly see the inefficiencies and issues that exist, and then make systematic changes in your workflows instead of piecemeal changes that don’t work with each other.
Step 3: Standardize your workflows
One of the problems that exists within firms is that the workflow is not standardized. A standardized workflow allows you to do two things:
- Create consistency. A good sales and onboarding workflow will have several people involved in the process, and they will need to be working from the same page in order to deliver a great client experience. If your workflow is not standardized, you might miss completing some steps in the process, or you may have multiple people asking for the same thing from your client.
- Discover automation opportunities. If your standard onboarding workflow involves sending out an intake form to a client once they sign their engagement letter, you can use automation to ensure this step happens each time, instead of requiring the manual tedious work of an employee to gather this information. At our firm, we use Practice Ignition to get our proposal and engagement letter signed off and approved by the client. Once they sign that letter, we have an automated email that goes out that lets the client know their next steps, while providing a link to fill out our intake form. By standardizing our workflows, we can create a more efficient and effective process that will, in turn, provide a better experience.
Step 4: Identify the necessary technology
In a good workflow, you will have three Ps: people, process, and programs (or technology). Identifying the right technology is critical in your workflows because it can help automate the process. For example, if you are using Intuit® Practice Management powered by Karbon alongside ProConnect™ Tax, each time you create a tax return, the steps and workflow that need to be completed will automatically be set up in Intuit Practice Management. This will ensure your workflow operates correctly each and every time, without the need for someone in your organization needing to remember to set up the workflows for the client. Again, the goal is to provide a consistent experience.
Step 5: Reassess your client experience
The final step is to get feedback on the sales and onboarding experience. If your processes don’t serve the outcome, then you will need to reassess your workflow and make changes that will provide a great experience.
Seize the day
Your sales and onboarding workflow is your first opportunity to show your client how you care for them. If the experience leaves something to be desired, you may have started your relationship on the wrong foot. Having standardized workflows allow you to have automation built in to remove some of the manual work that is necessary, and ensures consistency throughout your workflow. Creating a great sales and onboarding process will allow you to wow your clients and set your relationship on the right path.