The virtual world and the business world have integrated considerably over the past few years, and even more so during the pandemic, to transform business from face-to-face experiences to virtual ones. Adapting to a virtual world requires leveraging technologies, platforms, software, applications, and communication strategies to build and maintain client relationships. As client relationships are the heart of your firm success, it’s imperative you have processes and strategies in place to build and maintain them. Here are a few key considerations:
Start with a plan
To transition to the virtual office, there must be a strategic plan in place, as the virtual office is much more than just having high-speed internet access and a lot of computers. This is about your firm and the types of services you provide, how much face time you typically require, and how you will manage to migrate your engagements online. Taking a bit of time to sit and think about your clients, your procedures and your current virtual capabilities, including your computing power, cloud capabilities, web portals, secure communication capability, and Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) software is vital. Your CRM will be a huge key to making the transition as streamlined and seamless as possible, as you can deliver updates to your client regarding new virtual processes and procedures when working with your firm. For example, you can use your CRM to inform current clients that they are to no longer drop off documents at your office, but they should use your new online, secure portal.
Your CRM should have the capability to not only manage your customer relationships from providing generalized updates from your firm but also keep clients actively engaged by offering personalized support and timely information. Additionally, if you are using a CRM such as ABLE, which is designed just for accountants, your CRM should help you manage sales pipelines, identify your most important relationships, and track metrics such as customer loyalty. From your CRM analytics and your client knowledge, you can make a plan that contains how often to reach out and set reminders to do so. When creating the plan, don’t forget to specify the method of reaching out, e.g, email, phone, or virtual meeting, and what information will be discussed.
Provide value to your clients
Beyond scheduled meetings, maintaining a consistent presence in your client’s world is key to providing value beyond the ordinary business transactions. Being your clients’ continuous knowledge stream will keep your firm as the go-to “answer place” when they have questions.
You may have already positioned yourself as a thought leader in areas by sharing information via posting content on your website, blog, or on social media platforms. However, you can increase value to your clients by offering them exclusive training, educational webinars, or virtual get-together roundtables that help them address their specific situations. One example of a situation that kept firms and clients connected during 2020 was the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The PPP rolled out while still in flux, with information and changes occurring on the fly. Firms who kept their clients current and highly informed likely still have those clients, and just as important, these clients are likely now evangelists for the firm.
Keep an Eye on the Details
Managing change with clients can be tricky without having the resources to manage the details. Beyond having a CRM in place to help manage client relationships, it is imperative that you have other supporting applications in place. For example, you’ll need a secure place to share and exchange confidential files and sign documents. Of course, you will also need a secure billing and payment platform. Further, firm employees should have the necessary wifi speed and equipment necessary to support virtual meetings – nothing is worse than an intermittent microphone!
Make yourself available to your clients when they need you
Even though face-to-face meetings are not nearly as prevalent in a virtual world, you can still connect and maintain client contact by being available. Chat, virtual meetings, and email are just a few of the options available for interaction. Using your CRM to help you identify your key relationships will be important here so that you can ensure these relationships are being fully tended to.
The way forward in a virtual environment can be challenging when compared to the physical world but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important or possible. By implementing the necessary infrastructure and processes within your firm, customer relationships can be strengthened. If you can work in harmony with your clients and make life easier for them with a virtual connection, your firm can thrive in a virtual world.