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In today’s episode of ‘From the eLearning Trenches,’ we asked one of our learners, a senior manager in public practice, to consider how they could improve referrals from clients. Develop a process to identify client advocates – those clients who will refer you to other clients when the opportunity arises.

Learner Reflection

We need to systematically identify and nurture client advocates who believe in the exceptional service levels our firm provides and are willing to refer new clients.

Building and maintaining strong client relationships is an ongoing process that requires genuine care and attention to your clients’ needs.

  1. Ask clients directly if they would be willing to act as advocates and, if so, in what capacity.

  2. Establish a formal referral program that rewards clients for successful referrals. This program can include discounts, exclusive access, or other incentives.

  3. Schedule regular check-ins with clients to assess their ongoing needs and satisfaction. These check-ins provide opportunities to reinforce the positive relationship and identify areas for improvement.

  4. Organize events or webinars specifically aimed at appreciating your clients. These events can provide an opportunity for advocates to share their positive experiences with others.

  5. Identify the characteristics that make an ideal client advocate. This could include clients who consistently express satisfaction, have been with my firm for an extended period, or have experienced notable success through our services.

Feedback from our experts

Can you relate to any of these reasons why your firm may not be receiving more client referrals?

  1. Clients are not ‘delighted’ with the service and as a result do not feel that it can be recommended.
  2. You don’t tell your clients what you actually do to add value.
  3. You don’t actively ask for referrals when a good or great job has been done.
  4. Referral relationships are not maintained, developed, nurtured.
  5. There is no strategy, no action plan in place to generate referrals.

For most professional service firms, the best source of new clients is existing clients who believe they are receiving exceptional service. Often, these referrals are also for the type of clients you want.

The challenge many firms face is that good service is generally not enough – any firm that keeps its clients probably provides good service. Exceptional service turns good clients into great advocates. The good news is that exceptional service is not always about the level and quality of technical support, it’s often grounded in the small things we do to improve communication with clients, keeping them informed of progress, following them up to see how they are going and running discovery sessions.

What practical steps can you take now to improve the number and quality of referrals from your clients?

  1. Provide Exceptional Service
  • Continuously exceed client expectations through high-quality, personalised service.
  • Keep abreast of the latest accounting standards and technologies to provide innovative solutions.
  • Ensure accuracy, timeliness, and thoroughness in all services provided.
  • Offer value-added services, such as financial advice or tax planning, that go beyond basic accounting tasks.
  1. Ask for Referrals
  • Develop a structured approach to asking for referrals, such as during follow-up meetings or after successful engagements.
  • Train staff on how to ask for referrals politely and effectively.
  • Create a comfortable environment for clients to provide referrals by showing genuine interest in their network’s potential needs.
  • Acknowledge and thank clients for referrals, regardless of the outcome.
  1. Be More Proactive in Engaging with Clients
  • Schedule regular check-ins with clients to discuss their current and future needs.
  • Share relevant updates, such as changes in tax laws or accounting practices, that could affect their business.
  • Host client events, webinars, or workshops on topics of interest to clients.
  • Use social media and newsletters to maintain consistent engagement and share valuable content.
  1. Measure and Monitor client referrals
  • Implement a system to track the number, source, and value of client referrals.
  • Analyse this data regularly to understand which services or client segments are most likely to provide quality referrals.
  • Use feedback from unsuccessful referrals to improve services and client communication.
  • Set referral goals and incorporate them into the firm’s strategic planning.
  1. Clearly Explain the Value of the Work Provided
  • Regularly communicate the outcomes and benefits of your services to clients.
  • Use case studies or examples to demonstrate how your services have positively impacted other clients.
  • Make sure all communications, reports, and meetings highlight the value-added aspects of your work.
  • Train staff to articulate the firm’s unique selling propositions and how they benefit clients.

Key takeaway: Strong, proactive communication with clients is always the key to more referrals. Then it’s a small step to actually ask your valued clients for referrals. You’ll be surprised at the results.

This assessment task and response is taken from the Path to Partnership eLearning course (assessment task 16.3). Click here to explore this course

Also, take a look at the Client Concierge eLearning Course.

Discover the pulse of our eLearning community as we unveil daily feedback from enrolled learners. Exciting times ahead as we share this valuable information with the accounting, advisory, and administrative experts in public practice!