Is your accounting firm the kind of establishment that clients refer to their friends? Getting referral business from current and past clients is something that lets you know you’re successful, not just adequate. Good enough performance to keep clients isn’t at all the same thing. To earn the trust that lets people stake their credibility on your work by sending business to your firm you’ve got to go above and beyond “good enough.” This kind of trust comes from experiences that say you’re a firm that can be counted on every time. When you earn it, you know you’re on the right track. The absolute minimums for making your firm referable include:
- Competence. You wouldn’t expect a client whose dealings with you have been good overall but included some iffy aspects to refer you to others. To get the referral you’ve got to deliver the work on time, as expected and done to high professional standards every time. This has to include every element of their experiences, from wait times and phone manners to thorough knowledge and professional integrity. The client has to be confident that your performance is so consistent there is no chance of the potential client they’re referring hitting you on a bad day and getting less than adequate results in any way.
- Extraordinary service. It’s back to the concept of “good enough” for this one, because only firms that consistently deliver a client experience that’s remarkably good merit the referral. Exceptional has to be the goal for attitude, deliverables, turnaround time and relationships. If you don’t stand out as better-than-most, you won’t get the word of mouth business that says you’re worth the risk of a referral. Think about it – you don’t refer friends and business contacts to a restaurant, auto mechanic or school that’s only okay. You do it for those that make themselves memorable by the way they exceed your expectations. An accounting firm is no different.
- Accessible. The final point is less concrete but critical to the referral process. If someone recommends your firm, how will the recipients of the recommendation see you when they begin to look into engaging your services? Is your website attractive and does it offer up the answers they need without making them dig? Are your services, biographies and contact information easy to locate? Can they pick up the phone and be greeted by someone who is not only polite, but knows how to invite them in for a preliminary meeting? Your firm’s perception in the eyes of potential customers will be determined by what they find and how hard they have to look for it. You need a brand statement that communicates positive things without being pretentious, and every interaction with your firm and its collateral needs to back it up.
Getting referrals from those you’ve served feels wonderful for a reason: it means you’ve more than done the job they hired you to do. Encourage it to happen often and lead to an expanded client base by making sure you’re as referable as possible.