SmartBooks Online is a virtual business, meaning an array of challenges are immediately apparent. Just to name a few, these include building trust with clients and their accountants, showing the world that we know our sh!t without warranting a face-to-face coffee promising everything, and most of all managing expectations.
We’ve received mixed feedback from both clients and accountants about our business model. Bookkeeping has historically been a personalised service where it is traditionally and culturally expected that your bookkeeper would drop into your office every Friday morning armed with a flat white and a few manila folders to crunch out your accounts, just in time for BAS lodgements.
Instead we’ve replaced this with a “Magic Envelope”, a killer stack of cloud apps, instant messenger and GoToMeeting – with accounts processed on a weekly basis.
The feedback was mixed from some clients. The more “digital native” businesses enjoy our model. I think it’s the whole “DIFM” aspect, where getting your books done is no different to buying a pair of shorts from the Iconic. Simply sign-up online and let us take care of the heavy lifting. The only difference is that we’re not selling physical product, but instead Tech + Service.
The challenge all eCommerce businesses face centers on building trust through your website (more on that in a separate post), order fulfillment and communication. That is, delivering your product as expected by your clients, and communicating the stages of that process.
Some clients felt that whilst the work was getting done, they didn’t feel we were ‘a part’ of their business. Upon asking for additional feedback, we discovered that because we weren’t physically present and not being seen to be ‘doing work’, they felt a bit unloved and started to question the value that we provide.
Communication is King
We’ve learnt that communication with our clients is even more critical in a virtual environment. In an effort to go ‘above and beyond’ and be effective communicators with our clients we internally mandated the following:
1. Month end notifications – Once month end is complete for all clients (typically 3-10 days post month end, pending queries) a notification email is sent to our client and their accountant. We include the accountant in that email to encourage and empower collaboration.
2. The 12-hour rule – all customer requests and queries will be responded to within 12 hours. We measure these metrics with Intercom.
3. Regularly asking for feedback – Do you know an accounting firm that lives and dies by an NPS system? Very few that I’ve come across. We use promoter.io. It keeps us on the pulse of customer service, and also prompts our clients for referrals.
Our most recent challenge is to move the Passives to the Promoters.
Implementing these tools and systems have helped us to ensure our customer service and communication is top notch. Not surprisingly, implementing these systems has resulted in a remarkable improvement to our client engagement and satisfaction.
How do you measure yours?