05 Jun June 2017
My wife and I recently purchased a new house. I know we should be downsizing, but it just didn’t work that way. My wife liked it, and so the story goes. The important part about our new purchase has been my attempt to bring new Comcast service onto the property. It seemed like a simple request. I called the 1-800-Comcast number, set up an appointment, and like a naïve schoolboy, thought everything would be solved at the scheduled appointment, and we’d have TV and Internet. Not exactly.
A month later, today actually, the installers are here, so maybe we’ll have Internet and TV tonight. I tell you this story because I want to emphasize the amount of friction I have experienced in the process of dealing with Comcast, starting from the time they missed their initial appointment. I’ve complained, given them zeroes on their evaluations and become very much a Comcast adversary. If they weren’t essentially a monopoly in my area, I’d have gone somewhere else a month ago.
I know, your firm and my firm aren’t incompetent (like Comcast), but we do have friction points within our organizations. My purpose in discussing Comcast (besides the fact that I’m really pissed off at them) is that “friction” has become the word to consider. I used to think of “pain points,” but when you dig deeper, you discover that the source of the pain itself is friction—anything that causes resistance or induces drag in any process, whether it’s customer touchpoints, working ON your firm, or the software you use when working IN your firm.
How much friction do you have in your firm? Is there friction in making an appointment? How about signing a document? Or maybe notifying your client that something is completed.
What does reducing friction mean?
The ideal customer experience would, to the customer, be no experience at all. That is, the only thing the customer would “experience” would be the satisfaction or elimination of whatever need or problem drove them to your office in the first place. So when you design your firm’s customer experience, you should aspire to that goal—receding from the customer’s awareness altogether, fading into the background of the customer’s life, never to cause a worry or require a task of any kind.
Good customer satisfaction scores don’t necessarily mean a customer will be loyal, but bad satisfaction scores (which mean the experience is definitely not frictionless) do result in disloyalty—like me with Comcast. As soon as I have a better option, I’ll be gone.
So what are some things you can do to create a frictionless customer experience:
- Reliability — Things should work: your product or service, your website, your customer service. Everything should work the way it’s supposed to, to solve the customer’s or staff’s problem or meet their need.
- Relevance — You need to remember your customer from transaction to transaction; don’t make them tell you things you already know.
- Value — The cost/benefit must be in line with what’s expected.
- Trustability — It’s no longer just about doing what you say you are going to do; it’s about taking those extra steps to ensure the customer avoids mistakes or oversights. Customers expect you to be open and proactive in helping them solve issues before they happen.
This same frictionless concept extends beyond touchpoints to the other two key areas of your business—working ON and working IN your business. How much friction is created with the software solutions you use working IN your business? Things like browser-based software, phone system, email, calendar, shared documents and the list goes on. What does friction look like across all these solutions?
How about friction working ON your business? Things like your clear shared vision, your business model, strategies and objectives that need to be accomplished this year. Does the friction in your organization prevent you from getting the right staff people or rallying the ones you have? If so, consider what steps you can take to reduce internal friction throughout your organization.
Friction is exactly what Comcast has created, and it results in a terrible customer experience—friction in making and keeping appointments, in meeting customer expectations, and in caring enough to do anything meaningful about it.
What kind of friction do we have in our firms today that we don’t even realize? If you’re like our organization, friction points are all around. We’ll be talking in Indy this summer about ways to reduce friction in your firm. Make sure you’re registered for a Partner Retreat, and don’t miss it.
It’s time to look forward to the coming months and decide on your goals for the rest of the year. Last month, you reviewed your tax season and decided on changes that might need to happen; now is the time to start evaluating, vetting, and implementing software and process changes not only for tax, but the entire firm. To do this successfully, it is best to set a “go live” date or a deadline for a particular change and work backwards to determine when certain things should be done. This will allow you to set intermediate deadlines to stay focused, celebrate along the way, and ensure each change is made with an intentional purpose.
Now that we’re ready to move on from tax season, what should we be thinking about to improve the firm, help it run smoothly, and give you the ability to work fewer hours, and work flexibly and remotely?
- One of the easiest things to help the firm run smoothly is to clean up your project lists. However you keep track of projects, review what you have open, make sure completed projects were marked as completed, that there’s no duplication, and clean up any unnecessary tasks in your templates.
- A common summer project for many firms is implementing a new accounting strategy. Now is the time to review the various software you use with your clients, take a look at what services are being provided, and start consolidating clients into one software. You can upsell good clients to standardized service plans, and consider letting go of subpar clients.
- Internal technology is another great area to review now while things are “less” busy. What are you using to collaborate internally? Can staff easily access information outside of the office? How is email being used—is it useful or distracting? Should you implement an instant messaging type software? (The answer is YES!)
- Evaluate how you meet with clients. Are staff or partners taking valuable hours driving to client locations? Are clients taking valuable hours from their business day to travel to the firm? Video conferencing options are becoming more and more mainstream. If you are not using this type of tool now, it should definitely be on your list of things to do this summer.
Whatever areas of your firm you determine to review, set both short-term and long-term goals. Use the short-term goals to evaluate where you are, re-prioritize projects to keep yourself on track, and make sure to celebrate the changes you make along the way.
Email as a Marketing Vehicle
Remember the 1990s? What a remarkable time. We began to imagine the implications of this newfangled thing called the “Internet” as it made its way into mainstream life. Although it was new to the masses then, the internet traces its lineage back to the 1960s when research universities and the military developed protocols that allowed remote computer networks to connect and communicate. My first exposure to it all was receiving my first email account when I was a public relations staffer in the Radio & Television Department of Indiana University.
A few years later, an unwelcome surprise arrived in my inbox one day. I don’t remember what it was specifically, but I do remember it was X-rated. The era of spam had arrived. It was inevitable; email was an exceptionally cheap way to deliver messages directly to virtually every consumer with an account. By 2010, spam email volume was approaching 7 trillion annually, and not only was it an annoyance, it was also becoming a vehicle for malevolent activity, such as phishing scams and malware distribution. Fast forward, and now we have anti-spam laws and policies that create the framework for legitimate email marketing today.
Putting Spam in the Can
In 2003, President George W. Bush signed the CAN-SPAM Act into law, which established these compliance standards for lawful email marketing:
- Tell readers from whom the email was sent. The “From” and “Reply to” fields need to truthfully identify the sender with the name of a person or entity.
- Write a truthful subject line. The subject line should not be deceptive about the content of the message.
- Specify that the message is advertising. This step isn’t necessary if recipients on your list have given you permission to send them emails. (More on permission-based email marketing below.)
- Include a physical address. Each email must contain the postal address for the person or organization sending the email.
- Include an easy opt-out option. Recipients must be provided with an easily accessible means to opt-out (or unsubscribe) from your mailing list.
- Process opt-out requests promptly. If a recipient chooses to opt out of your mailing list, you have 10 days to honor the request, and you can’t charge any fees or impose any other conditions on executing the request (such as subjecting the requestor to a compulsory sales pitch, for example).
Your ESP: Compliance in a Can
An easy way to assure compliance is to manage your email marketing through an ESP (Email Service Provider), such as Constant Contact, MailChimp, Emma, or similar platform. These companies provide technology platforms that will keep your email marketing compliant.
However, because of variances in international law and the inherent risks of aggregating large volumes of commercial email traffic, ESPs’ terms of service can be slightly more restrictive than the letter of the law. In fact, most will require to you agree to practice permission-based marketing. That is, under their terms of service, you are required not only to provide an opt-out mechanism, but your email recipients are required to have explicitly opted-in before you send them email. In other words, you must receive their permission to email them by means of their subscription to your mailing lists. Most ESPs will help facilitate opt-in by providing you with HTML code for a subscription form that can be embedded on your website and social media channels. Your existing clients are exempt from this requirement, as your business relationship is considered implied consent.
That’s a lot of ground to cover before you even queue up your first marketing email. And there’s a lot more to consider before you click the “send” button.
Next issue: “How to Write and Deliver Effective Marketing Emails.”
Summer events have kicked off!
Our first Partner Retreat for our Academy members was May 31st-June 1st. That is the first of 12 events at our Learning Center in Indy. Our first five are completely full—be sure to register for your event now, before it’s too late!
New members: If you’ve never attended a Rootworks event before, make sure to register for a Next Generation Accounting Firm Workshop.
Veteran members, make sure to sign up for a Partner Retreat.
Our summer events are a big part of building the community that we have together. Don’t miss out. Take the time to get outside of your office to work on the business.
All event details, including agenda, registration, and hotel booking links are at https://grow.rootworks.com/events