Episode 53: Why use NPS for staff and clients
What you want is a healthy business. You want the staff to be happy. You want the clients to be happy. And you want all your numbers, your sales profits, and new clients coming through trending upwards.
In this episode of The Wize Guys Podcast, Ed Chan and Jamie Johns together with one of the Wize Mentors, Tim Causbrook discusses why it is important to use NPS for staff and clients and how this affects the clients and how will this help with customer satisfaction and service improvement.
0:00 - Intro
0:35 - Understanding the concept of having the Net Promoter Score (NPS) in your firm
2:06 - What is an ethical letter?
2:31 - The importance of using NPS for your staff and clients
8:54 - How does NPS affect you and the clients
10:28 - What to do if your clients are not happy?
12:21 - Tips for managing client expectations
13:51 - Some NPS software applications to use
14:32 - What is the ideal time to send NPS
16:58 - How to take action
“We should be embracing continuous improvement because you won’t know what you need to improve unless you ask and get some feedback.” - Ed Chan
“Problems in any business happen, it doesn’t matter what business you are, and research has found it’s how you respond to the problem.” - Jamie Johns
“You talk to the client and you get a 10, you don't talk to the client, you get a 4. I mean that's really all it is.” - Tim Causbrook
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Tim Causbrook: In all the WizeGrowth firms that I look after, why use NPS for staff and clients? So to give us a bit of an introduction, I'll share a little bit of my own insight into using NPSs, and kind of what got me over the line as so to speak. And then we'll jump in here from the original mentors themselves, Ed Chan and Jamie Johns on the topic.
Believe it or not, out of all the Fab Five KPIs, this is the one that I kept saying to Ed and Jamie, and the rest of the team. ‘I don't really need this. I know that my staff is happy. We're mainly working in an office together. I know all these guys, I can tell if they're sad or not.’ It was all fine until we had a shock resignation that was completely out of the blue last year, and it wasn't an offshore member that resigned, Paul. We actually had an onshore member resign a little bit earlier that was complete outta the blue as well. So there were two of them come to think of it. I had to kind of eat humble pies they say in Australia and say to Ed and Jamie and the rest of them, ‘I don't really know my staff how they're feeling as well as I thought.’ And that's when I started using net promoters for the staff. That was a big one for me. For clients, I can leave that to Ed and Jamie to talk about.
You might work with only onshore staff that they might work in an office as I do at pretty old school. Even then, it's shocking what you, what you don't know. People might not feel comfortable telling you if they're having issues with their immediate report. I think sometimes when you're all together, people are even less forthright because you're all together. So I think whether or not you're distributed team and you never see the person day-to-day. There's no cafe to mill around and chat about personal lives and how they're going, whether or not you are completely distributed or altogether. I still think there's a pretty strong case to be made for net promoters. And in Australia, we have a thing with ethical letters for the North Americans who are joining us. You get an ethical letter when a client leaves. I don't think that's necessarily the case in America. But what is the case in America, I'm sure you get a resignation letter when someone leaves. So just like with clients with ethical letters, the same with staff with resignations. I don't want to be blindsided by a resignation letter. I wanna know when one's coming. So I'm prepared for it and I've got the team set up so it can handle losing that person.
I think in my own firm, my own experience, net promoter scores have been very, very useful for that.
Ed, Can you please take us through why is it important to use NPS for staff and clients? I only really talked about the staff piece and how does this affect the clients and how will this help with customer satisfaction and service improvement? For the firms who have gone, in my case 20 years without thinking about things like customer satisfaction, why is it more important now than ever? If you could fill us in on that, that'd be great.
Ed Chan: Yeah. Great.Thanks, Tim.
In Australia, I guess I can speak about Australia. We have this propensity not to embrace feedback. We don't like complaints and heard firms say, ‘I don't want to do surveys. They might tell me things I don't want to hear.’ Instead of embracing an opportunity to get something fixed.
I know the word ‘Kaza’ is a Japanese word, which means it's continuous improvement. We should be embracing continuous improvement because you won't know what you need to improve unless you ask and get some feedback. We see it as such a negative thing, but we should be embracing it and saying, ‘Give us some feedback and tell us how we can improve,’ and not see it as negative thing. So I'd just like to say that upfront because some firms shy away from getting feedback, whether it's from clients or from their staff.
You just touched on staff, but it's so expensive if someone leaves and you gotta start all over again and recruit and do the training again. It's a very, very expensive exercise. So it's really important that as you're growing, have a system in place that allows people to come to you because they might have some issues that they can't speak to their managers about. The saying is that people leave their managers, not the firm. It's very true. If a staff member's having an issue with a manager, then they should be able to come to you and express some concerns if there were any concerns and they shouldn't feel trapped, and they shouldn't feel trapped, not knowing where to go. That's the same with your clients. So in this spirit of continuous improvement, and of course being systems dependent is very important because then you're not people dependent. You own the system and the system runs or is non-automatic and it's happening all the time. And, no doubt Jamie will talk about some of the software that you can buy and they're relatively cheap. So you can implement and use them to get feedback.
Now, senior client managers' key performance indicators are predominantly how happy the clients are. Often they don't tell you. So you need to be able to be reaching out to the clients to see how happy they are. While the senior production manager's KPIs are how happy the staff are. You should be able to reach out to them and ask if there's anything that you can improve.
So from the client's perspective, if you have a net promoter score that is hitting 9 or 10 out of 10, you've got someone there who's going to go out of their way to refer you, friends, and relatives. How good is that? That's a free salesman, if you like, who's singing your praises. However, if they're rating you 7 or 8 out of 10, then they're happy with what you are doing. But they're not. They're not glued to you. So if you know someone, they won't go out of their way to refer your friends and family. They're happy, but they won't go out of their way to refer you. Now if they're scoring 5 or 6, they are either happy or unhappy. But if there's a better offer out there, they'll take the offer. There's no loyalty there because they don't think your service is so good that they can take it or leave it. And of course, if you are scoring under 4, they're going out of their way to say bad things about you. There's a saying, ‘You can go pretty far on social media if you were spreading bad things about your firm.’ Even in the old days when there weren't social media. There's a saying, ‘A happy client tells one or two friends, an unhappy client will go tell 20 or 30 people and I'll go out of their way to say bad things about you.’
So it is really important that you address if there were any issues because the research also shows that most customers or clients understand that things will go wrong from time to time. But what we find the organization is not that, or the individual that's providing the service is not that things go wrong, but it's how fast we fix the problem. Now, if you don't fix the problem immediately, well this research shows that if you fix the problem, you identified a problem, and you fix it very, very quickly, not only do you win that client back, but you turn that client into an advocate ~ someone who'll go and, and tell everyone how good you are because it's your responsiveness to their concerns that defines your organization. Now, of course, if you didn't know there was a problem, and found that 80% of clients that if they're not happy, they just don't come back. Only around 20% will complain. So it's a bit like that iceberg that you see floating. You see the tip of it and they're the people who complain, but underneath the water is a huge bulk of the iceberg, which people who just don't complain, they just don't come back. You want to know who they are and the survey is a fantastic way to do this.
As I said earlier, there's this very economical software that you can run and, with the staff as well. So that's what I just wanted to say was just to express how important it is to continuously improve what you're doing to create systems so your system's dependent and not people-dependent. That you are as you are growing, and this is what's happened with me. I end up with 10 offices around Australia with 160 people and around 12,000 clients. You just don't have a finger on the pulse. I mean, the opposite to that is that you see every single client and you talk to every single staff and it's not possible. That restricts your ability to scale and grow. So you need to replace that with a system that is automatic and that gives you the opportunity to appreciate or to understand what is happening in your business together with your Fab Five. What you want is a healthy business. You want the staff to be happy. You want the clients to be happy. And you want all your numbers, your sales profits, and new clients coming through trending upwards. If you have all those numbers going in the right direction, then you can sit back and know that you've got a healthy business. It's important that you do have a healthy business because so many people depend on it. I call it a goose that lay a golden egg. So your staff depends on it, your shareholders depend on it, the clients depend on it, and everybody depends on the lays legs. So it's imperative for management to manage your business well so that you do have a healthy business for the sake of every one that depends on it.
Tim Causbrook: Yeah, that's really great Ed. There's so much there we can pick apart, but I think you laid a really good kind of case for why it's important, well, not even just support, but imperative that we start doing net promoter scores with our staff and clients.
What if you know your turnaround time sucks, for instance? In his case, like where your problems are, do you still need the NPS? Our clients have continued to put up with this since the start of the pandemic I'm afraid to ask.
I think there are two questions there. If you know what the problems are, it does. Is there anything to be gained from asking your clients?’ I guess Jamie it’s the first question and the other one is, ‘What if you're too scared to get bad feedback? Which is a great one as well. Have you got any words of wisdom on that one?
Jamie Johns: Yeah, just seek the facts. You wanna know the truth and it mightn't be as bad as you think.
I would definitely still set up the NPS and look at the facts. Look at what your score is and it might be worse than I think it might be the other way. But you wanna measure so you can manage and take the right approach. Often it's not when we generalize it's probably the wrong thing to do. It mightn't be just to say that everyone's really upset with how I run my firm. It might be just a generalization.
So I'd definitely still ask and set it up and that's the point. Then you can go to work with your team to try and fix the NPS.
Ed touched on so many positive things, but the NPS started about 20 years ago. There are a couple of really great Harvard University articles written on how it can increase profitability and also evidence that it'll help the firm grow as well if you get a consistent net promoter score, particularly with your clients. So it's often sort of up, from five. I think to 25 times harder to find a new client and keep one. So, if you can help keep the clients, and as Ed said, ‘Look, problems in any business happen, it doesn't matter what business you are, and research has found it's how you respond to the problem.’ So, I'll definitely still ask.
Tim Causbrook: Yeah, no, thanks for that, Jamie.
Ed Chan: I just add to what Jamie just said, if your clients are not happy about something, then the fact that you ask them makes them feel better. They may not be getting it off their chest, so let them get it off their chest. Then from your point of view, you can actually focus on what to concentrate on the next year. So if you had half a dozen clients complain about the turnaround time and then surprisingly, you'll find the others didn't complain. Then you can put the ones that complain further up on your production, you are should doing and you can address it. If you know what the problems are, you can get the whole team to focus on fixing them. But if you were certainly dunno, then there's not even a chance of even fixing it. Just putting your head in the sand doesn't fix anything. You've just gotta ask and the clients will be happier that you asked them, right? And from our point of view, we don't like complaints. So we try to hide away from complaints. But there's a saying that it's better to ask for permission than to ask for forgiveness. And asking and addressing it upfront will raise your standards a bit higher because you are putting yourself on a footing where you can focus on the particular problems that are occurring and, generally with clients even if you're doing turning around really, really quickly. If you don't manage their expectations. So, clients come in if you don't explain to them.
For example, that's why we have an acknowledgment letter explaining the turnaround times and how we work. Then if you don't say anything to them and you don't educate them, then when clients drop their work off, they have different expectations. Some might expect it to turn around in two days. Alright, well we take six weeks to turn around. But we tell the clients upfront and if you need it quicker than that, we can move you to the front of the queue. However, most clients are happy with our six weeks turnaround. But if the client expected eight weeks turnaround and you did it in six weeks, they'll think you've given a fantastic service. But the person who thinks two days to turn it around, they'll think you've given poor service. That's if you don't say anything to them and you don't manage their expectations. But our letters that are going out are managing their expectations.
So that's part of the reason why we have great NPS scores is that we are managing their expectations. They don't drop the work off and think it's gonna get done in two days apart from the fact that we're scheduling. We should be scheduling the work so they know and talking to them about when they should bring their work in and what the expected turnaround time is. The thing is if you're working like if you said to someone to bring their work in September and your admin team is working with them to make sure that they're meeting that deadline. They're finding and getting all their missing information together. Then by the time it comes in, you can turn that around in a couple of weeks if all the missing information is there and you don't have 40 or 50 clients sitting on your books waiting for the work to get done. You're spreading it. You're taking control of the workload, sort of signaling there and reacting to the workload as it comes in. And that's gonna help with the turnaround times as well. So it all starts with shifting.
Then we've just jumped to the end with the NPS course. But if you're doing everything properly, you should be able to not have all the work in at the same time, which then causes the delay, but you'd be able to spread it over the next 12 months, in which case you can turn around in two or three weeks. I think Jamie turns around two weeks of your work. Is that right Jamie?
Jamie Johns: Well like, it’s four weeks.
Ed Chan: It is managing your client's expectations.
Tim Causbrook: That's really great Ed. Great points and I couldn't agree more that its part of the psychology of making the clients feel like you're listening to them and giving them a systematized way of doing that.
‘What software is effective for North America?’
There are so many NPSs out there cause it's quite a simple thing and I got paralysis by analysis. One of the things holding me back from implementing it was I was trying to figure out which is the best one. I think Jamie might have said, ‘Just go for it Tim, like they're all pretty good.’ I use OfficeVibe for staff, that's an American company so I think I pay USD for that. So that would definitely be able to quit. I think a few of us use CheckMarket and Medallia for our clients.
I think for your staff as well if you're clever about it ‘cause you can create templates in there and it'd probably be more cost-effective than using both. But I yeah, use both. So you can definitely do that. They're American-based software so you'd have no problems with those.
‘When do you send out the net promoter scores if you're a bookkeeping firm?’
I mean it's easy enough for accounting tax firms cuz we send it out once we file a tax return for the year. So once a year, but in a bookkeeping-only firm. Jamie, when would be the ideal time to send out an NPS do you think?
Jamie Johns: Yeah, so would have a lot of bookkeeping as well Sky Accountants. So without just pure bookkeeping clients, we'd send out once every six months. So your timing, you don't wanna sort of flood people with their inbox like every month with their score because a small percentage of people will answer it. But you've gotta just work out what's right for you.
Over the years the bookkeeper would send it out once every six months because the touchpoint with bookkeeping is, it's quite constant. You've got your larger firms that you know will get their bookkeeping done daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly. So just pick your timing right, that's one thing.
‘How do you go about introducing NPS to your clients?’
We've probably done it for over probably about eight years now. I think the very first time we introduced it, we just sent an email out to all our clients and just said, ‘Look, we're introducing a new feedback system and welcome your thoughts.’ We just basically sent an email out, Tim, to tell people that we're using a feedback system to monitor our service levels and it was well received. So yeah, over the years, done it for years now. Once you do, you'll probably talk about Tim. Occasionally, you will get a bad score and then it's important to know how to handle that as well.
Tim Causbrook: Yeah, on that note, it's worse to send out a net promoter score to a client and then not respond to a bad score than not to send it out at all. So make sure you're ready to have the infrastructure in place for you to deal with those. We have a return the same day policy, return a call email the same day, and I treat an NPSs score as like an email or any other form of communication. It doesn't happen that often. But every now and then we'll get sub six and my client managers will get the email that day from my admin team and they'll pick up the phone, and call the client within an hour. The clients are always shocked that we're dealing with that quickly. And so far we've managed to turn every single one of those around I think purely because we've dealt with it so quickly and we have actually dealt with whatever they're upset about.
So I really, I couldn't stress that enough. Make sure that you are responsive. There's one firm I know that was not in the call so I'll say it, but there's one firm I know who did it and there was like a month and a half worth of messages in the net from the clients and they didn't realize the clients were sending them the messages. I had a heart attack on their behalf. I was like, ironically the critique was not good at communication, which was kind of re-reinforced by the way the NPSs were handled. So yeah, kind of funny, but kind of terrifying. So make sure that you have one person in the firm who's responsible for managing the NPSs software. I have my admin assistant doing it. Make sure otherwise, especially cause it's not urgent and important, it'll just go by the wayside, which is terrible.
Ed, one action item that you'd recommend if people are hesitant to jump into this and are still thinking it through?
Ed Chan: Yeah, it's not as scary as you think.
I remember Tim when I started working with you. You were quite far behind in lodgements and things are quite chaotic obviously. If we sent things out in the middle of that, then you're gonna get some negative feedback. But we did it anyway one by one. You got it all fixed up and today's much, much better. So don't do it. It's not as scary as it seems. You should be looking forward to the feedback from your clients and looking at improving what you're doing and your staff as well. If your staff doesn't know, if your senior client managers don't know what the clients are thinking, they're not gonna know how to improve. But if they're getting this feedback from their clients. Then they know what to target, what to spend time on, and what to emphasize in their service and it is not as scary as it seems. So just do it and start off with the ones that you feel are positive, and then just do it right across the board.
And of course, you can improve your screen. Often the staff just does the work and send it out to clients to get signature. Now if you want to improve your NPS scores, then make sure that if it's a small return, and make sure you call the client with the result. If it's the large one, make sure you have a client approval meeting before you finalize the work that client approval meeting. It may only go for 10-15 minutes, but that's gonna improve your NPS. You'll make a huge difference to the whole process.
Tim Causbrook: I can definitely echo that. We added one of our fours or fives pure ‘cause we didn't do the sign-off call, and the client was used to it. How easy is that? You talk to the client and you get a 10, you don't talk to the client, you get a 4. I mean that's really all it is.
Thanks so much for that Ed.