In article one we talked about catalysts for change and how Covid-19 had provided a somewhat unique opportunity to ‘try out’ a few new things: working from home, using remote technology and perhaps most importantly talking to clients regularly! This latter point will be one we discuss in this article.

Article two moved on to one of the most challenging and widely discussed topics for accountants, pricing. What is too much, what’s too little. Clients will be the ones to decide the answer to this question related directly to their own perception of the value we as accountants deliver. The topic of client experience is therefore incredibly relevant to the question of value as we will discover.

In the last article I asked you to have a think about what client experience means to you. When did you last encounter great customer experience and what made it so great? How can this translate to the way you engage with your own clients?

If you had chance to have a think about this, I hope it was a useful exercise and I will share some suggestions with you in the article to expand on your own ideas.

Everything we do as a firm should be linked back to the client experience. It’s for this reason that when I talk about the digital firm I use my digital firm wheel.


Client experience sits at the heart of a digital firm and should be at the heart of every firm, digital or not. Before we do anything we should be asking how does this impact the experience our clients receive from this action or decision.

So what is client experience?

Customer experience for me is best summarised as the way we make a customer feel. You know how you get that warm fuzzy feeling? That’s what we want when clients engage with us!

The more technical definitions of what client experience is revolve around the total sum of the interactions a client has with us over the lifetime of the relationship. It is therefore not a one-off event. Typically it comprises the customer journey, the touchpoints a client has with our organisations, the different environments the client encounters whether online, in our office and so on.

Client experience encompasses everything we do from quality of service, reliability, communication, branding, and the ease of use of our services. It requires us to think about every part of our business and the way we design services to meet the expectations of our clients.

Expectations was highlighted above and this is a critical point. Client expectations have shifted. We never used to talk about client experience - we talked about good service and we will discuss this more in a moment. Service providers have got better at delivering goods and services, technology has played a part of course. Digital disruption involves removing friction from a supplier and customer relationship. All the best disruptors have done this, Netflix, Uber, AirBNB and Amazon. They have all made the experience better by removing the niggles in booking a taxi, a hotel or simply buying good and services.

As consumers get more accustomed to better client and customer experiences the greater the expectation across all areas of their lives. It won’t change overnight but as more firms catch on to the principle and build their services around client experience the harder it becomes to ignore it in our own firms. We don’t have to be Amazon overnight, but we do have to be better than our competition.

How is client experience different from client service?

We started to touch on this a moment ago. One of the best things about being an accountant is also one of the worst and it’s the concept of gross recurring fees. We are the envy of our professional service colleagues in that we don’t have to keep going out to win new business as we have a recurring revenue stream. All we have to do is to not mess up, right? Sadly, this has been the case for many years. As long as we delivered an OK service, clients would come back year after year. The world, however, is changing, and it is easier than ever for clients to shop around so that historically low bar for service expectation is rising.

Delivering good service is what we might refer to as a critical success factor. It is one of the things we have to do to stay in business. A good service historically, however, might have been filing accounts and tax returns on time and responding to client queries in a reasonable timeframe. Whilst this might be enough to keep you in business (and I’m not sure it is anymore), it is not going to give you any level of competitive advantage. The bar has been raised and if you want to differentiate your service offering by quality of service you have to be delivering world class client experience.

How can we improve client experience?

I have spoken to many firms over the last few months and there has been a common message. It goes something along the lines of ‘our clients have been really positive about the support we are offering’, ‘we have created really high levels of client goodwill’, ‘we are getting really positive comments and feedback from our clients recently’.

Any ideas why this might be the case? Most firms have gone beyond themselves to support clients in the face of Covid-19. They have been regularly updating clients on the latest government guidance sending regular email campaigns to clients, picking up the phone, promoting Covid Information Hubs on their websites and much more. I wonder if there is a direct correlation between this uplift in client feedback and apparent satisfaction and the fact that firms have engaged with their clients on a weekly or fortnightly basis maybe for the first time ever!

What we can take from this is that the number one way to improve client experience is to increase the touchpoints we have with our clients. Look for ways to engage regularly in a positive proactive way. It could be through sending regular information. It could be by delivering regular (daily or weekly) bookkeeping; however you do it, it needs building into a process so it always happens.

Remember client experience is the sum of the total parts of the lifetime journey from start to finish. The onboarding process is critical and we shall talk more about this in a future article, you never get two chances to make a first impression! You also need to live by those first experiences consistently.

Firm vision and values are the things that will engage a client in the first place and it's imperative that in delivering lifetime client experience you live and die by these principles in everything you do. Brand mismatch will become very evident. This was a real issue in our firm before we refitted our office. Our previous office did not match our vision and values and created confusing messages about who we were and what we did.

In building great experiences for your clients design the customer journey:

  1. Be clear on why you exist, what your vision is
  2. Be clear on what the values are that underpin this vision and drive your approach to clients
  3. Take your brand and build it into a living breathing firm personality, make it consistent across all you do
  4. Clearly define your onboarding process to understand and set client expectations. Don’t be afraid to turn away clients where there is expectation mismatch
  5. Build regular touchpoints into your processes to ensure expectations are delivered against
  6. Measure client experiences and ask for regular feedback

How do we measure it?

I have set out in the last section the steps to build great experience in your firm and point 6 is around measurement. How do we measure client experience? The obvious answer is to ask clients how you are doing, and this should be something we undertake regularly. It is, however, possible to use a global benchmarking approach to measurement of client experience. It is a tool known as NPS or Net Promoter Score. Even if you don’t think you know what this is you will almost certainly have seen it. Does this look familiar?


Collecting NPS data is as easy as that. You can use Mailchimp or similar to send and collect the results. Of course, you can only base the result on the responses you get but it provides a consistent measurement that can be compared regularly to assess how you are progressing with client experience. You are likely to get a response rate of some 15-25% of your client base. Once you have the results in you can calculate your NPS.


As you will see the calculation is fairly simple. We ignore the passives, those that score 7 or 8 and we take the percentage of promoters who scored 9 or 10 and deduct the percentage of detractors those that score 0 to 6. Therefore, if you had 60% promoters, 30% passives and 10% detractors your NPS score would be 60-10 = 50.

A score of 50 is excellent. Essentially:

  • a positive score is good (more promoters than detractors)
  • a score of 50 or more is excellent
  • a score of 70 plus is world class.

Here is a useful analysis. 

NPS provides a simple way for you to measure direction of travel when it comes to client experience and at the same time gives you a sense of comparison with global brands. If we focus on this as a measurement and engage our teams we go some way to create a culture where client experience really matters and that is great for you, your firm and most importantly your clients.

Next steps

To recap, client experience is critical as we move into a world where clients' expectations are shifting. The first steps to building a client focused firm are:

  1. Define why you exist, what your vision is
  2. What the values are that underpin this vision and drive your approach to clients
  3. Take your brand and build it into a living breathing firm personality, make it consistent across all you do
  4. Clearly define your onboarding process to understand and set client expectations. Don’t be afraid to turn away clients where there is expectation mismatch
  5. Build regular touchpoints into your processes to ensure expectations are delivered against
  6. Measure client experiences through NPS and ask for regular feedback.

Next time we will look at the importance of process. How do we blend people, process and technology efficiently to deliver great client experiences? I look forward to sharing my views on why we as accountants have to dictate the process and the benefit of us owning the end to end process of our clients' accounting functions.

Will Farnell FCCA – Founder, Farnell Clarke