1. Emphasize client appreciation. Write thank you notes and send them to your better clients when you deliver the final product or a material part of your engagement. Clients have many choices—letting them know you recognize that and appreciate them will bring them happiness and distinction to your firm, and heighten their appreciation for you.
2. Broadcast staff success stories and compliment achievements. On a weekly basis have your partners and staff register their successes and circulate them internally—people generally like to see their name in the news for something well done. Furthermore, a text of thanks at a time when it is least expected—at the end of a Saturday or early during a week day before work starts—are both great. A happy staff will foster happiness for clients. Happy staff and happy clients lead to easier billing and higher performance.
3. Stress and reward service. Survey clients right after Busy Season but let them know that the survey is going to happen prior to starting your engagement with them. Tie the results to a bonus program for your staff. Staff members who receive a ranking at a certain level or above resulting from strong client satisfaction receive a bonus. An overall firm-wide bonus can be implemented as well. In addition, institute a program to measure client satisfaction with surveys.
4. Practice practical responsiveness. If you know you are going to be tied up for a certain amount of time, put an automatic response on your email letting clients know when you will be able to get back to them. Similarly, if you are not going to be able to return a phone call, have support staff call your client and let them know that the message has been received and when they can expect to hear from you or a staff member.
5. Use minimum fees for more than just profitability. To help ensure that your clients meet deadlines have your fees escalate as the season progresses. A little pit of "price pain" will encourage clients to get their documents to you in a timely fashion and will assist your firm in meeting its schedules and commitments.
6. Broaden flexibility and accessibility. Your firm can make itself totally accessible to clients during Busy Season by having staff members work in staggered shifts until 9 or 10 p.m. Overworked clients may appreciate the opportunity to call or follow up after the normal 9-to-5 hours. And employees may want to take advantage of, on occasion, having hours free during the week to go to appointments or run errands.
7. Highlight the impact of your efforts. When you send completed returns to your client, include a cover letter summarizing the results of your engagement. Use bold text to highlight achievements such as the value of the planning you did or the research you performed. Clients, like all people, are easily distracted. The more you can have them focus the better for you and them.
8. Bill in real time. Invoice within 48 hours or notify clients that invoices will be sent in a certain window of time. The client will attach proper value to the work you have done because it will be top of mind and your firm will benefit, as well, from improved cash flow.
In the heat of the Busy Season, it's easy to get caught up in production and not see the strategic opportunities to improve your practice. There is still time left to maximize the strategic benefits that are at hand and use them to be even more focused after Busy Season.
You deserve optimal results—it all starts with you.