Client interviews: Preventative medicine to maintain a healthy accounting firm


One of the key tenets of medicine is dealing with illness at an early stage, for everything from a virus to a cancer. By recognizing and treating the problem before it has a chance to take hold and spread, you can limit its potential to threaten the long-term health of the entire organism. While your accounting firm may not be vulnerable to the same types of threats, it can still benefit from a proactive approach to wellness.

As CPAs and business advisors, accountants are well positioned to crunch the numbers and find weak spots in firm performance as it relates to profitability. What they don’t tend to do as well is recognize underperformance in completely meeting client needs or educating existing clients about the many ways these firms can serve them. They may also fail to recognize weaknesses in a client relationship until it’s too late, or not fully capitalize on what clients most appreciate.

Regular medical checkups help you learn about how organs and body systems are performing; they’re advisable even in the absence of noticeable illness. To keep your firm healthy, employ the same approach by asking those in the best position to know how you’re doing: your clients. Regular checkups in the form of client interviews offer an opportunity to hear their voices clearly.

To ensure clients are comfortable sharing their unvarnished perceptions, always opt to have someone outside the firm conduct interviews on your behalf. The feedback you receive will likely identify areas for improvement. It may also reveal unrecognized strengths, allowing you to take advantage of additional opportunities. By including open-ended questions and following the client’s lead, interviewers can learn things like:

  • How clients perceive your firm and what they see as your biggest strengths
  • Why clients choose your firm and what they value most about the relationship
  • How well clients think you understand their industry
  • What clients wish you were doing more or differently
  • How well clients understand the additional services you offer

Armed with this knowledge, you’re well prepared to align your marketing messaging with your most positive differentiators as clients see them. You’ll also have the awareness you need to better educate both current and potential clients about all the ways you can help them, and to provide additional staff training or guidance if necessary.

Client interviews are a powerful tool that yields critical insight you won’t learn by any other method. When you go directly to the source and ask the right questions, you not only ensure that clients get the most value from their relationship with you, but also increase the likelihood of a long, healthy life for your firm.

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Sarah Warlick

Sarah Warlick founded Proof Positive Content to provide professional service firms with high-quality content that resonates with their target audiences. Sarah's writing appears in books, on the websites of over a dozen Top 100 Accounting Firms and in Accounting Today, Forbes and other leading publications, but usually under another name. Ghostwriters rarely get the glory - their clients do!