Episode 46: Referrals: Do’s and Don'ts
In this episode of The Wize Guys Podcast, Ed Chan with Wize Mentors, Thomas Sphabmixay, and Timothy Causbrook discuss how having a referral program in place increases the chances of getting quality referrals and keeping the business of these clients for your accounting firm.
Find out how to start implementing this process so that there is a steady stream of referrals in the pipeline.
0:00 - Intro
0:35 - How to implement a referral process
1:14 - Why referrals are the most efficient way to leverage
1:50 - The importance of client service and communication
2:39 - What is the ideal time to respond to clients
4:43 - Why client approval meeting is essential
5:38 - Tips for giving value to clients
8:58 - The positive impact of having your clients involved
9:31 - Understanding the emotional bank account
#wizementoring #referrals #referralmarketing
“At Chan and Naylor, we have the same-day response. So, if you can't respond the same day because you're in a meeting, then at the latest the next morning. If you can't respond the next morning, you have got to get someone to ring the client up and let them know you won't be able to get back to them for a couple of days. If you're connecting with the client, that's the first thing you need to do. And everybody needs to be on the same page with that.”- Ed Chan
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Thomas Sphabmixay: We’re discussing a very interesting and hot topic about getting referrals every day.
So talking about developing a system for getting endless quality referrals and here to introduce the topic to us is our Wize guy, Ed. So Ed, having a referral program in place really increases the chances of getting quality referrals and keeping the business of these clients, where do we start in implementing a referral process so that there's a steady stream of referrals in the pipeline?
Ed Chan: Thanks, Thomas, and thanks for introducing the topic.
Obviously, when someone refers your client, they're obviously very happy about your service for them to refer you to another client. And out of the four ways to increase your business, that is the cheapest way to do it. It’s the best way to do it because not only are your clients happy, but they're now going out there and talking to their friends about your business. So obviously that's the first one that you want to work on. The other three are monetization sheets which are selling more services to your existing clients. The third one is your digital marketing, and the last one is an acquisition you go by a firm. But we're not gonna talk about those three, we're just gonna talk about referrals because we should be doing to attack the low-hanging fruit and the lowest-hanging fruit is your referral system.
It all starts with your service and your responsiveness to your clients. If you can just put yourself in the client's shoes dealing with two businesses and one business responds to you very, very quickly and the other business doesn't respond to you and the competitors and you're looking at utilizing their services, you're gonna go with the firm that responds to you very, very quickly and the firm that builds a relationship with you and the firm that cares about you. And because the message they're giving to you is that they care about you because they're responding to you. The firm that doesn't respond to you, the body language they're giving you is that you are very low on their priority list. They've got other things to do, they're busy, don't bother me. That's the body language that the firm doesn't respond to you or responds to very slowly. They've just got very low on their priority list. They've got other things to do and they don't really care.
So the first thing is you gotta get your staff responding very, very quickly. Now, at Chan and Naylor, we have the same-day response. So if you can't respond the same day because you're in a meeting, then the latest the next morning. If you can't respond the next morning, you gotta get someone to ring the client up and let them know you won't be able to get back to them for a couple of days. As long as you're connecting with the client, that's the first thing you need to do. And everybody needs to be on the same page with that.
In fact, if you came to work for Chan and Naylor, there's a letter called the chairman's welcome in that it says if you don't respond on the same day, then it's a sackable offense. So that, we get them to sign that so that everybody knows what's expected because we're in the service industry. If you wanna grow, that's what it's about. You've gotta respond so that you show your clients that you care, that your whole organization cares. That's the first thing.
The next thing then is your communication. At Chan and Naylor, if I want you, Thomas to respond to me, I send the email to you and I might cc Tim on it, but I don't expect Tim to respond ‘cause he's being CC'd on it. But I do expect you to respond, and part of our culture is, if you receive an email, you must respond. Otherwise, it's a sackable fence. Then, if you get everybody on the same page, the whole team working in the same way, then you won't get these situations where a client sends the email to four or five people. The reason why they send it to four or five people is that no one's responding to them and they're hoping someone will respond. But the problem with doing that is it drags four people into the same conversation and then either four people respond to it. It wastes four people's time, or nobody responds because everybody's waiting for the other person to respond. So you've gotta come up with a policy that says the person who receives the email must respond, otherwise your clients will drag you into their nightmare. They'll drag four people into the same conversation. Also, if you multiply that across the board, that's just a lot of wasted information, a lot of chaos that's created, and a lot of confusion. So, make sure the team's all on the same wavelength and that they're all responding.
Now the third thing of course is that when you finish a job for a client, you never, never, never just send it out for signature. I see that happen so often and it's because we're all focused on productivity. We all focused on the short term ~ getting our lodgements done and getting onto the next job, then the teams under pressure. We've gotta get the workout, we've gotta get the whip down, we've gotta get the debtors’ invoices out, and we've gotta worry about cash flow. It's all staff that's focused within and not once is that focus on the client. Because if you don't focus on the client, you are not going to get referrals from them. So in order to do that, we always have a client approval meeting before it's finished. For businesses, we have a client approval meeting that can be by phone, it can be by Zoom, or it can be by face-to-face. We take them through the journey of tax planning. So if it's a larger client then obviously it's a tax planning meeting and we get the approval to finish off in the way that we've discussed. If it's a smaller client, we just ring them up like a return or a rental property. We ring them up with the results to let them know what the result was not just to send it out in the mail.
So that's the other thing that you need to do if you want to increase your referrals. But that extra bit of time that you spend with them might only be 15 minutes. You might have spent five hours doing the work, but you spend 15 minutes with them. That 15 minutes has more value to them than the five hours that you spent doing the work. And yet most firms focus on the five hours of getting the work done and getting it perfect, right? Sure. It's the best work is done at the absolute quality and it's the best job in the whole world. Then they don't talk to their clients and it's that 15 minutes of a conversation with the client, they'll get you all your referrals. But we just focused on getting the job done and getting onto the next job so we don't get referrals.
Often you probably know by now, we set up teams as senior client managers and senior production managers. The senior client manager's role is to talk to the clients and to have a bridge between the production team and the clients. So they're communicating at the client's level. So they've gotta have interpersonal skills and so forth, but if the senior client manager is busy sitting there grinding, then they're not going to have the time to speak to her clients. And often when a client manager says to me, ‘Oh, I don't have time.’ It's because either A ~ they like doing the work, so they sit there doing the work, or B ~ they don't know what their job description is and they don't know their job is to have these tax planning sessions with the clients, have the client approval meetings and that's their job. They sit there doing the work or they enjoy doing the work. So they sit there doing the work, but they're an overpaid employee if they're holding that role and getting and just sitting there doing the work. And or the staff below them needs a lot more training or the capacity below them is not sufficient to do the work. So it bubbles up to the top and ends up on the client manager's desk. So you gotta look at your team, make sure that you've got to use the capacity planner on the WizeHub to work out the capacity for each team. Make sure that the resource mix within that team is appropriate because you've gotta have a combination of a junior person that can do the lower level work at the lower charge rate to a more experienced person to finish up the work and then to the client. To the senior production manager who checks and reviews the work and then hands the work to the client to the senior client manager to go see the clients who do the stuff that I'm talking about. So make sure the team structure is right.
Then, of course, make sure you've got a newsletter going out to the clients. The minimum is once a month because the research shows that if you're no longer in front of your clients after a month, it's whoever is around that they'll look at. So if someone sends them a newsletter or they've clicked onto somebody else's newsletter, then they'll start gravitating over there. They'll start forgetting who you are, you know, about a month is the late, the longest that you need to go without touching base with your clients.
Now if you are working with your clients every month, then that's okay, but often we don't see our clients for quite a few months, if not, once a year. We need to keep in touch with the clients to make sure that we're at the forefront of their minds because your clients and my clients are constantly being hunted by our competitors so someone's touching base with them constantly. So we need to be doing that as well in order to keep them keeping us at the forefront of their mind.
Lastly, of course, I might be jumping the gun here, but I'll leave that to how we measure things later on because it's very important that you measure all this because the further away you are away from the pulse of the organization. Like me, I haven't worked in the practice now for 24 years. I know with the reporting that comes back to me are the five most important things, including how happy clients are, it's being measured. I know whether they're happy or they're not happy. So that's very important as well.
Thomas Sphabmixay: Great.
In our firm as well, I noticed the mark difference when you recommended the client approval meeting into our firm. It's very different to be able to get the client involved in the process. It showed me how Wize approaches referrals. It's not that we're advocating, say give your client a thousand dollars if they refer a client, but it's stemming from that customer service and developing a process where they're, where they're getting involved.
Actually Tim as well, you've been in the midst of continuously improving your systems and you've also implemented so much of the Wize methodology. How have you seen the effects of implementing this referral philosophy in your firm?
Tim Causbrook: We know who our referrals are now. So we've been tracking client net promoter score (NPS) this financial year and sometimes it's clients that you would imagine were the nines and tens, and sometimes it's surprising who the nines and tens are. We know now who to go after for those referrals. That's something we didn't really know before. We send them out once a year when the main compliance work's done. But a client could be a nine or a ten one year and a seven or a six the next year depending on what happens to them. Ed talks a lot about the emotional bank account and that goes up and up and down as well.
So it's just really important to be targeted. You don't wanna ask a hundred percent of your clients for referrals. You wanna ask the ones who are quite happy with your services. I'd be looking at As and Bs for referrals if I've got an A-grade client that we're looking at moving on. I wouldn't be coming after them for referrals. So everything about Ed’s philosophy with Wize is targeting the appropriate areas.