Best Practices

Client Satisfaction Survey – The Real 411 on Your Firm

Jennifer Cantero, Sensiba San Filippo LLP


Measuring client satisfaction may not feel like the most important thing; however, by giving your clients a voice, you will learn what you can improve upon and gain a better understanding of why your firm numbers are not where they should be.


The importance of client satisfaction cannot be understated. Client satisfaction data can help you measure loyalty, identify unhappy clients, and increase revenue. Having good client satisfaction scores can even serve as differentiators to help you attract new clients in competitive markets.


Speaking of score, you will want to start your survey with a Net Promoter Scores (NPS) question. The NPS question is the globally recognized survey question that determines a client’s level of loyalty to your firm. The question is measured on a scale of 1-10 or out of 100 percent. If you were to ask yourself, “What would my firm score,” you may be surprised at how off your guess might be. The industry’s ‘Best of Accounting’ award goes to firms with a NPS score of 50 percent or higher. That might seem like a low bar. However, according to Inavero, the accounting industry average is about 18 percent out of 100 percent. Surprising, right? You might now be thinking of re-evaluating your guess.


There are many that shy away from doing a survey, scared of what they might find. However, the benefits outweigh the risks, and in general, companies that measure their net promoter scores are a third more likely to have growth rates of more than 10 percent per year. If you are having a hard time selling the idea to your partner or stakeholder group, below are seven reasons to help sway them in your favor.


Creates a client-focused culture & differentiation

The accounting industry has become an extremely competitive marketplace. Where firms compete for clients, client satisfaction is seen as a key differentiator. Bain & Firm states that “a client is four times more likely to switch from one of your competitors if their problem is service-related versus price or product-related.” By emphasizing the importance of client satisfaction, you will be able to create a client-first culture throughout your firm. This is exactly what is needed to build a high-end client service brand. This is very hard to replicate and will give you a major competitive advantage.


Leading indicator of client loyalty

Client satisfaction is the best indicator of how likely a client is to stay with your firm and/or expand services. Evaluating your clients’ satisfaction is a good way to see if they need to be on a watch list or if they have the potential to become a valuable referral source.


Clients who give you a rating of 9 or 10 are your potential referral sources — those you can leverage to cross-sell additional services or get a warm referral for a new prospect.


Scores of six and below are warning signs that a client is unhappy and at risk of leaving. These clients will need to be followed up with, put on a watch list, and have their service teams evaluated to determine why their satisfaction is low. If they are a valued client, you may need to change their engagement team or go the extra mile. Then again, they might be a ‘D’ client that is draining staff resources. This helps the natural process of weeding out clients that aren’t a good fit (that every firm does from time to time).


Reduces client churn

Client satisfaction is the metric you can use to reduce client churn. By measuring and tracking client satisfaction, you can put new processes in place to increase the overall quality of your client service. As Peter Drucker says, “If you can't measure it, you can't improve it.”


If your first results come back less than desirable, I recommend you put an emphasis on exceeding client expectations and ‘wowing’ clients at every opportunity. Then, measure client satisfaction again in six months to see if your improvements have made an impact.


Increases client lifetime value

Satisfaction plays a significant role in how much revenue a client generates for your firm. A study by InfoQuest found that a client that rates you a 9-10 NPS contributes 2.6 times more revenue than a client that rates you a 7-8 NPS. Furthermore, a 9-10 NPS contributes 14 times more revenue than a client that rates you a 6 or below. If you increase client lifetime value, you increase the returns on your marketing dollar.


Glean new ideas

Receive insight into your clients’ future needs and help determine the direction in which to take your firm with the products or services you provide. Add a list of proposed items to your survey to discover what clients most desire from your firm. For example, if you are considering offering new products or improving features of an existing line, give your clients some choices and ask which one they would be most likely to purchase. Alternatively, if your survey allows write-in comments, your question can be open-ended to allow clients to include any type of related product or service that is a priority to them. Offering new items that your survey shows are in demand may be more successful than attempting to predict the needs of your clientele.


It is cheaper to retain clients than acquire new ones

Clients cost a lot of money to acquire. On average, it costs 6-7 times more to acquire new clients than it does to retain existing clients. Your firm spends thousands of dollars getting the attention of prospects and nurturing them into clients. How much are you spending on retaining them? For most of us, not that much…if anything at all. Think about allocating a small piece of your marketing budget toward client retention.


Boosts internal morale

When you begin to ace client satisfaction and your survey returns fantastic reviews from your clients and even shout outs for particular employees, your employee morale gets a real boost. Accounting talent is difficult to find and sometimes we forget to show appreciation for their hard work. This was personally my favorite benefit of the survey my firm recently completed. Passing along the positive feedback directly to the individuals and teams that came in from our clients made our employees stand a little taller and definitely feel validated. There was a strong sense of pride throughout each of our offices.


Hopefully, these seven solid reasons have inspired you to start your own client satisfaction survey. You can do them yourself through a survey tool like Survey Monkey, or engage a third party to do the heavy lifting like Inavero. No matter how you decide to gain the data, you will be happy that you did.