Episode #107 Top Ways Bookkeepers Can Retain Clients

In this new, insightful episode of The Bookkeepers' Voice, Angie Martin talks through the Top 5 Ways Bookkeepers Can Retain Clients and WHY retention is more important than ever.

In 2021 we are seeing a MASSIVE transition from bookkeepers who have traditionally worked face to face with clients, move their services online. This new ‘Virtual' way of working is certainly exciting, however it can sometimes throw challenges when it comes to client retention.

Key Takeaways:

  1. “Retentions is earned”
  2. “Empathy needs to go both ways”
  3. “Play the long game”
Podcast Info

Episode: #107

Series: General

Host: Angie Martin

Guest speaker: N/A

Topic: Top Ways Bookkeepers Can Retain Clients

Read transcript

Summary keywords: importance of client retention, virtual bookkeeping, client satisfaction, bookkeeping clients


Top Ways Virtual Bookkeepers Can Retain Clients


Angie Martin  0:01

Good morning, everyone. hope you're all having a fantastic day. So far this is Angie coming for from the savvy team for another episode of The bookkeepers voice. And I still cannot believe it is 2021. Already, it is so exciting. To start off this year, I have been doing a lot of webinars to really make sure that we can help support you guys as much as possible. And I actually just finished doing a webinar that was just really inspiring. And I ended up taking so many notes that I thought I'd actually create the notes into a podcast for you, which will then also be followed up with an actual written blog to further communicate all the bits of information I am going to be speaking to you about in this episode today. First off, though, I would love to just thank everyone for joining us for another episode. We as a team love doing the bookkeepers voice. And it is such a great way that as soon as we get a great idea like I did today, it's so wonderful to be able to get online and share an amazing topic with our community. And we love that you guys love it as well, and that you actually learned something from our random babblings. So thank you so much for joining us today. And I hope that this helps you really start 2021 in an exciting way, and really look forward to the future in the world of bookkeeping for this year.


Movement to virtual bookkeeping in 2021

So to start this episode, I want to first discuss in just a blanket statement that in 2021, we're seeing a massive opportunity for virtual bookkeepers and bookkeepers who are just wanting to transition away from so much face to face engagement. There is so many amazing things that are coming out right now. And even in this topic we're going to be talking about today, there was an ongoing premise that you can do amazing things virtually, which for the world of bookkeeping, most of our systems now are completely cloud based. So it creates a really exciting opportunity that I really would urge you to investigate. I know, there are a lot of bookkeepers out there who love to still go do the face to face thing love to be able to go in and you know, actually communicate in person with your clients. That's fine. I'm not saying stop doing that. All I'm saying is that there are some really exciting opportunities for you to not have to go in maybe on a weekly or monthly basis to get receipts and to actually do the physical work in house, you can actually do it remotely much easier and more cost effective for yourself and for your clients, which is really, really exciting. But to kind of get back to what I want to talk about today. I want to discuss some top ways bookkeepers and bookkeeping businesses can retain their clients. I know with COVID-19 happening in 2020, the Australian forest fires and then flooding and everything 2020 was a crazy year. And for a lot of bookkeepers, you found it really difficult to retain your client base. And you know, that could be for multiple different reasons. But your clients actually went out of business, or they ended up migrating to a different bookkeeper, whatever the case, the name of the game, basically when you have your own bookkeeping business is that you want to retain your clients as long as possible simply because they're your clients. You don't want to have to continually onboard and off board clients every month or so.


The importance of client retention for service-based businesses

Something that I really always find interesting is that why client retention is so important for service based businesses and now this is just for all service based businesses not just bookkeepers, the stats here but there is a Actually a impressive statistic for focusing on client retention, rather than always focusing on procuring new clients. So the cost of acquiring a new client. Now this is for service based businesses in general, it is about five to 25 more expensive than actually gaining an extra service from an existing client. So what that means is that the cost of you spending your time looking for clients and calling them and following up with them, creating quotes for them doing health checks with them, the cost of you doing your marketing the cost of you, using lead generation platforms, such as one flare, or bark, it actually costs five to 25%. More than if you were to just focus on retaining your existing clients and expanding their existing service space. In a lifetime, an increase of 5% in a customer retention focus can increase the company revenue by 25, to 95%. This is a massive statistic that you really do need to look at. And it's something that we actually honestly really focus with, in at at the savvy bookkeeper and off the hook. Because with savvy bookkeeper, we have some of the best clients I think you guys are amazing to work with. And we don't really look at it, as you know, increasing what you guys pay, it's more of continually providing service that we know you need. And it's something that you can still think of it for a bookkeeping sense as well, especially last year, you know, your existing clients needed to do so much extra work last year that you were able to do add ons such as job keeper, and, you know, if you have a client that works for itself is a freelance or a consultant or anything, you know, they may have been on job seeker themselves. You know, there's so many ways of increasing your overall revenue by just focusing on your client retention and making sure that your existing clients remain your clients and can also get upgraded as they go. And, you know, with off the hook, that is definitely something we do focus on, not so much just upgrading them. But you know, our goal is a bookkeeping business is that when they first come with us, we want to help them grow. So as they grow, their requirements grow and the scope of our services then need to grow. And that's great. It works. It's a win win for everyone. So you really need to think of your existing client and your client retention as a lifetime investment in a lifetime value that you can actually create your business and really help it grow naturally. The other thing that's really important when thinking about client retention is loyalty. I think a lot of our clients at the savvy bookkeeper completely understand the concept of loyalty you everyone has that one client they have had for years, that the client will do anything and everything, you will do anything and everything for them. You guys are really supportive of each other's businesses. And what's really great with client loyalty in the world of bookkeeping is your clients talk. Your clients are the best word of mouth, ambassadors for your business. And most business owners, no other business owners, it's kind of what happens you slowly start to gravitate to other business owners and you you know for networking for friendships, anything and by having a successful client retention programme that creates loyalty, you're then able to enable them to then suggest you on to everyone else.



Client satisfaction and why it’s important for retention

So the client retention programme is kind of a two fold programme because it keeps your existing clients clients, ongoing for lifetime and then it also helps they help you get new clients who are going to be similar to themselves because they know each other. It's a really great way of making sure that your business can grow and your clients are happy with the savvy bookkeeper, we are always the biggest concern that we have is that we are helping our clients. That's why we're here. That's why Amy Hooke created the company is to support you guys. And that is why you created your bookkeeping businesses is to support your clients. So many bookkeepers are actually so empathetic and such caring individuals, which is why I actually love working with you guys. Fun fact. But it's hard to actually communicate that to help create that customer loyalty and keep that client retention is that you guys care so much, but you don't always are able to communicate it in a professional way that you don't think is going to cross a professional line. So what I did in our webinar, I actually wrote down some ways that are my top ways to retain clients. And it's all in regards to bookkeepers. So my first top tip and way to actually retain clients is treating them well. Surprise, surprise, treating them well. Every client likes to know that you care about them, every client likes to know that you are there to support them, especially as their bookkeeper. I've said this time and time again, hiring a bookkeeper is an extremely personal experience. And you guys always know more than a lot of the business owners partners know about a business. So by actually treating them well. It makes them become more loyal. And it makes them client retention increase because everyone wants to be treated like someone cares about them. And it's a really important thing to focus on. So number one super easy. Treat your clients well. Number two, treat your employees well. Now, I know not everyone listening to this podcast actually has a team or has employees. So for this, but when I say employees, I also mean yourself. So for anyone listening, just fun fact, anyone listening, if you own your own bookkeeping business, and you work within your business, you need to also call yourself your employee. Because treating yourself and your employees well means a lot to your points. Let me explain what I mean by this. So by treating your client, your employees, well, your clients will immediately notice the difference for their enthusiasm, their empowerment, the love the business, their love for supporting their clients. This goes the exact same way as if you treat yourself well. Everyone can always hear a difference for when you were smiling on the phone. Or when you're smiling and writing an email, there is a way to know if someone is happy in their position or not. Again, let me relate it to the savvy bookkeeper. everyone on the team loves working here, we have a great work environment. And we it makes us feel empowered to do anything we can to support you empowers us, because we are treated so well. We want to treat you as well, if not better. That saying as well. Amy also needs to focus on treating herself well. So then she can also create that same environment for herself. Just because you are a business owner doesn't mean you can treat yourself poorly within your business. You need to treat yourself the same care you would treat an employee whether or not you have one or not. So you need to take the time to actually help yourself and employees to feel comfortable at work to feel like they're in a safe place to feel that if something's wrong, they can come to you and say something or just to feel empowered, an empowered employee can be so essential to your company, because they can actually go forward and really help your customers Especially right now, for a lot of small businesses in Australia. A lot of businesses still need help. We are still experiencing shutdowns, we're still experiencing quarantines things are not over yet, your clients still want to see that support. And the best way to show that support is by supporting your employees. And if you don't have employees, supporting yourself hinted, it really makes a difference. And again, your clients can see that happening, whether or not you're super trend, like transparent about it or not, they can see it happening and they can feel the difference in their own customer service experience. So make sure you do treat your clients well. Treat your employees well. And also treat yourself well. The next bit is about your customers as well put your customer service first. We are service based businesses. Plain and simple. bookkeepers are service based businesses, you are here to service and provide a service for your clients. Simply put, don't forget that you are here to help them. So make sure you put helping them first, whether that is providing information for them, whether that is sending out an email every week to keep them updated on things. Don't forget that you need to actually provide service to your clients don't just get caught up in the daily tasks of being there bookkeepers, also makes sure that you remember to actually provide a service to them, and not just get caught up in, you know, we all get caught up in the to do list. Number one on the to do list is your customer service first. That brings me into a second part of it, which is creating a caring client community. Now, your bookkeeper, you don't need to create a Facebook group, you don't need to create an actual physical community. What I mean by that is create an environment where your clients feel like they are a part of something, they are part of your business, they are a part of your overall community, you are here to support your community. What does a really great thing with that is they remember, they aren't your only clients, which is really good. And also helps them feel comfortable that you are thinking about your clients as a whole. Because that makes you feel more supportive as a whole. It's really important. And if you do have enough clients or if your clients are the type that would love a community, do make sure to go through and actually create a community on Facebook, actually create a community whether it's on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, it doesn't really matter. Even if you have Slack, and you want to add a client channel to slack, so your clients can talk to each other and communicate.


How do I create a community feel with my clients when I’m a virtual bookkeeper?

There's some amazing ways now that you can create a real community within your bookkeeping clients environment, that again, can be 100%, digital and virtual. It just helps them really feel like they're a part of something and really helps them increase their loyalty to you. And again, the name of the game increase their client retention. The final thing that is really important for client retention is transparent communications. And this is something that has been massive this last year, transparent Communications at the beginning of the year, we have a we had the forest fires, and we had the floods and then we had COVID the best way to communicate with your clients during these extreme times of I'm just gonna say the word crisis is being transparent and being honest with them. And kind of talking to them like you are also a just wait for it. business owner. Remember, you guys are bookkeepers but you're also business owners you also understand what they are going through. Talk to them like a fellow business owner Explain to them that, yes, this is a stressful time, bear with us, we are here to support you. As soon as I find out what's going on, I will let you guys know. Be honest with them and say, you know, for the last holiday, the holidays just happened. If you needed to take a few days off, let your clients know, hey, we're going to be closed from the 20th to the fourth. If you need anything urgently, please email with the title in the subject urgent, and I will get to you. Besides that, I will action everything after the fourth. People like that transparent kind of environment because you're being real with them. Especially right now we're just crazy things are happening in the world. Business owners just don't want to feel like they're being lied to. So be transparent and be honest. We love being honest with a savvy bookkeeper. And that's why our last series in December had Amy on to really be honest with her experience, awesome business owner during this last year, it was a stressful, stressful situation for any business owner. And to not admit that to yourself, is a lie. And to not admit that to some of your clients when you know they've been feeling the exact same way. It's a mistake, level with them, make them connect with you. Be transparent, it goes a long way. And once again, it really helps your client loyalty. And it really helps your customer retention. The next bit in the webinar that I attended is we actually went through and discussed the three main areas, book people, business owners in general, but I'm saying bookkeepers, three main areas bookkeepers should be focusing on in 2021 to improve their client retention. Now, I've changed this a little bit, just to make sure that it's all really highly focused to bookkeepers. So number one, is being where your customers are. We are all busy right now. The bookkeeping industry has completely transformed and there is more work than ever for us to be doing for our clients. And that means that we're not always available the way our clients want us to be. So you need to give them options, whether that is a chat bot on your website, email, communication, phone, communication, video calls, review sites, your actual website, your community, social media value added content on your website. By having all of those options available, it gives your clients so many more ways to contact you in a way they feel comfortable.

Assisting your bookkeeping clients with the financial position of their business

This is important during these times this last year, the hardest thing I think for a lot of bookkeeping clients was to feel comfortable with their actual bookkeeping matters, because I know a lot of business owners who got to the point that they kind of just went to me and said, I don't even want to look at my bank account. I don't want to I'm afraid to I don't know what I'm going to do. And every end of month was terrifying. You need to make sure that the client communication that you're offering your customers is as easy as possible and makes them feel as comfortable as possible. And also give them options. So let's say they give you a call, and you obviously can't answer because you're busy. So just them to email you. Let's say they email you and you still can't get back to them suggest to go on social media and message them or vice versa. However you want the chain to work, give them options to be able to contact you that way. They feel they know that you care about getting their message and you can get back to them as soon as you possibly can. Another thing that's really important is making sure that you include self service options as well as assisted experiences. So this is my number two area that you need to focus on. Creating self service and assisted experience options for your clients in the world of bookkeeping is extremely important. Now, let me explain what self service and assisted experience options mean. Ever since COVID, there has been a slew of consistent questions that your clients have had, whether it is the latest job keeper update, paid assistance update, any update that has happened, and there has been a lot over the last 12 months, you can actually create a knowledge base of resources that they can go to or watch or read, to provide self service experiences. This is really important, simply because it saves you time from saving, saying the exact same information to all of your clients every single week or every single day, you need to be able to allow them to have an ability to check things that come from you. So it's still from you. It's not from the internet, they don't have to Google, they just go to your website, or read your email, and they get their information that they're asking. It allows them to feel a bit more empowered, a bit more in control of what's happening with their business. And it also allows you to not have to repeat yourself over and over again. So you can sit down and actually support them in their businesses. When I say assisted experiences, that is when having a self service experience isn't enough. So whether that is with a client that has been extremely impacted in this, these last few months, setting up a monthly consultation where you run through their options, what's happening with their accounts, and things like that. Things like that need to be created throughout 2021. Because as I said before, we're still not out of possibly the worst part of COVID-19, we are still in lockdown, we're still in quarantine situations, your clients still need help. So this is the opportunity to set up value added resources such as a resource list, blogs, video, blogs, email outs that go out to each client, anything that you feel comfortable doing, to provide that knowledge base that can be self regulated, and self service so that you give your clients the power back to inform themselves accurately because it's coming directly from you. Then you need to create the assisted experiences, where you follow up with them to make sure that they are understanding what is happening with their businesses. These two experience types are going to be really important going forward this year. So definitely think about that. My third and final main focus for 2021 this year for bookkeepers is managing expectations. Now, in the podcast that Maya and I did where we were talking about onboarding, we talked a lot about managing expectations. And that is because when it comes to bookkeeping, I think that is the biggest misconception and misunderstanding that you can possibly have with your clients, simply because, again, they don't know what bookkeeping really is. So it's hard for them to have realistic expectations, too, you don't always have the time to manage their expectations. So when you really create that expectation management system, as soon as you onboard your clients, that is really, really important. And it goes a long way to keep your client retention high. When I say manage your expectations, your client expectations for client retention in 2021. I mean that your clients should never have to guess how long it's going to take to talk to you. What are the alternate channels of communication if they can't get through to you the first time and if there's any document for them to reference before having to talk to you. Again, I don't know if you've noticed but those three things are exactly what I just talked about in creating the self service and they existed experiences Those three things should never be a question for your clients this year. And I'll give you examples on how you can actually make sure they're not going to be questions right now. So, in the bit where it says, How long is it going to take for them to be able to talk to someone. In your voicemail, you will say that you can say that within 24 hours, you will be getting back to your call, and your emails, you can say that within 24 hours. Wait, let me rephrase that business hours, you will get back to their call, in your email, it can say within the next 24 hours, you will get back to their email. Or if you have specific client communication days, you can remind them that their client communication day is on a Wednesday, or on a Friday. And that's when you're going to get back to them on that question, make sure that you actually can communicate a realistic timeframe for you to get back to them. I know with some bookkeepers, they are so busy right now that their protocol for getting back to our client is 48 hours, that is fine. As long as your clients are aware of the timeframe, they feel much more comfortable. Knowing that you are going to get back to them in in those messages in your email or whatever message that you do, just make sure that you reiterate that they are important to you and that you are going to get back to them as soon as you possibly can, because you want to help support them in their business. Just a simple reminder, like that goes a really really long way. Now, helping them understand the alternate channels of communication. That is just what I said in the last little bit about how you simply say, you didn't reach me on here, contact me on here, didn't reach me on here, contact me on here. It gives them the ways of again, gaining that little bit of control back in their own business, and still feeling like they're getting something done. Because a lot of business owners have had no control over anything this last year with their own business. So least let them feel a bit more in control and how they can contact you. The final one, is there any documentation they can reference before they talk to you? Again, this is all about the knowledge base, creating a knowledge base place where you creating value added resources. So whether you create a resource section on your website, you create a blog section on your website, you do video blogs, you do emails, whatever way you want to do it, make sure they know where they can access that information, so that they can be supported in check things themselves in a self guided way, before having to ask for your help. It goes really really long way. So in this podcast, just went through a whole heap of information. But I did want to summarise the three takeaways for this episode. And don't worry, I know it was a lot of information, we are going to be writing a blog about this so that you can actually read through and then write notes off of the actual blog for you. My three takeaways, though, is client retention is earned you need to earn their retention. So make sure you do it. Remember, bookkeeping is a service based industry. So provide a service that is rewarded by your client retention. Second thing empathy needs to go both ways. You need to be empathetic to your clients and they need to be empathetic to you. So make sure that you are levelling with them and having a transparent way of how you are running your business so they understand what they can realistically expect from your service right now. The third thing, play the long game. Don't think of your clients have immediate payouts or immediate ways to get paid. bookkeeping clients are ideally long term clients. So you need to treat them as such. Make sure they feel safe right now make sure they feel supported right now, because in the long term, you will get a lot back from them. Hope you guys have learned a lot with this episode. In the resources section on our website. I am going to include our podcast where Maya and I discussed our top tips for creating strong relationships and the onboarding process. Because it will directly help you with client retention. And that is the episode 33. And again, there will be a link to it in the resource section of our website for this podcast. I will also include three resources that we have available through our savvy website. And that is our business, bookkeeping business stress test, which is really great for you to send through and have your employees and yourself to do to make sure that you are treating your employees really well. And if they are really stressed, find out what you can do to help support them. Also support yourself. The second one I will have included in the resources will be the guide to digital presence. This will help you have create a really strong base for clients to be able to communicate with you on a vast majority of platforms just to make sure that you can really support them in any way that they feel more comfortable. The third resource I'm going to include is the onboarding workflow infographic that Maya has made for you guys. This is a really great infographic and we talk about it quite a bit in the podcast that I mentioned. I want to include this one for you as well because it will help you build that first starting point of client retention for your new bookkeeping clients. So definitely take a peek at that. They're all free resources always available to you in the savvy website. I hope you guys learned a lot today and as always, stay safe, sane and savvy.