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Tax & AccountingFebruary 16, 2022

Recommendations and Referrals: A Digital Twist on a Traditional Growth Strategy

By: Wolters Kluwer Tax and Accounting

If one of your clients has an experience with your firm, they’ll tell a friend and who will tell two friends and so on. Referrals are one of the most traditional growth and marketing strategies tax and accounting firms rely on to grow their business. But referrals today have a tech twist that forward-thinking firms will want to master.

Referrals are no longer just word-of-mouth recommendations during phone calls or face-to-face conversations between a client or partner and a prospect. They’re now driven by online reviews, social media posts, video testimonials and your firm’s general online presence.

Even if they look different, referrals are still a solid growth strategy for firms of all sizes. According to a 2021 survey performed by Accounting Today for Wolters Kluwer, 51% of all firms are focused on obtaining referrals from current clients and partners as a way to fuel their firm’s growth.

Here’s how to make the most of new referral sources and why ensuring your customers’ satisfaction—often shared widely and loudly—is more important than ever.

Online Sources of Client Referrals

Don’t misunderstand – a referral may still be a direct recommendation, and word-of-mouth is as powerful as ever. But with 93% of US consumers searching online for a local business in 2020, you can’t ignore what your online presence says about your firm. A post—positive or negative—from an influential member of your target market will reach many more people than your networking efforts ever would.

That’s not to say that you should give up attending local events and nurturing relationships. But in a world where Yelp and Twitter give people a platform to tell their customer service stories, firms that neglect their digital presence will quickly be left behind.

Referrals today could include:

  • Video testimonials—either positive ones strategically solicited by your firm or negative ones posted by angry or dissatisfied clients
  • Online reviews on websites like Google Business, Yelp, Angi, Nextdoor, or your own firm’s Facebook page
  • Social media posts that refer to a client’s experience and tag your firm

Positive reviews on public websites as well as positive mentions on clients’ social media pages have been shown to increase customer trust, help firms rank higher in search ratings, and provide a direct line to prospects.

So how can you steer the conversation? By understanding what part of your firm’s service experience keeps your current clients coming back. Once you identify what you do well, you can ask current clients for a testimonial about their experience—and, of course, work on fixing those things that did not make the list.

It’s also essential to designate someone from your firm to be responsible for monitoring and responding to online reviews and social posts—both positive and negative. Part of effectively managing an online social presence is addressing an issue before it escalates, allowing you to drive the narrative and reinforce your commitment to customer satisfaction.

A Satisfying Customer Experience Is Essential to Referrals

Of course, it’s a given that firms should be mindful of client satisfaction and experience, but it’s absolutely critical if your firm wants to actively cultivate client and partner referrals. After all, a client who isn’t happy with your staff or service isn’t very likely to recommend you to others.

Just like with other growth goals—recruiting new clients or cross-selling services—referrals rely on your firm’s current clients having a positive end-to-end experience, from prospect through onboarding and retention. That includes easy-to-use tools for collaboration and communication, as well as accurate and reliable work from your staff.

To make clients feel truly valued, personalized service goes a long way. Tech can help there too. Think about using your workflow solution to keep track of life changes, birthdays, kids’ college plans, and more. With a comprehensive solution, you can ensure staff members use each customer’s preferred form of communication so that requests or updates don’t get lost.

This need to pay particular attention to client service and satisfaction is not new to firms. More than half of those surveyed already have an existing client experience tool, such as a digital portal or online client collaboration platform, in place. Another 30% say they’re planning to implement one.  

That’s good news because clients are voting with their money. If they don’t feel like they’ve had an excellent end-to-end client experience, they won’t just walk away—they’ll tell their friends, and they’ll tell their friends.

Wolters Kluwer Tax and Accounting

Wolters Kluwer Tax and Accounting is a leading provider of software solutions and expertise that helps tax, accounting and audit professionals research and navigate complex regulations, comply with legislation, manage their businesses and advise clients with speed and accuracy.

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