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Secure the success of your accountancy firm - take your client experience seriously...

Here’s where you decide whether to leave client experience to chance or design it deliberately.

Before we pose the big question for your firm, meet Lily.

In May 2011 Lily Robinson, a three-year-old wrote to UK supermarket Sainsbury’s, saying:

‘Why is tiger bread called tiger bread?

 It should be called giraffe bread.

Love from Lily Robinson age 3 and ½.’

She received a reply from a customer service agent:

I think renaming tiger bread giraffe bread is a brilliant idea – it looks much more like the blotches on a giraffe than the stripes on a tiger, doesn’t it? 

It is called tiger bread because the first baker who made it a l-o-o-o-ng time ago thought it looked stripey like a tiger! Maybe they were a bit silly!

Chris King (age 27 and 1/3)’.

Lily’s mother posted Chris King’s reply on her blog, someone posted it on twitter, other social media got involved as did the BBC…

Here’s what people were saying about Sainsbury’s…

‘That’s what I call good customer service!’ … ‘Simple gestures like this can and do generate immense goodwill for the brand, yet is still so rare’ … ‘If there were more Chris Kings working, bad customer service would be a thing of the past!’

Sainsbury’s changed the name of the bread to Giraffe Bread – you can still buy it today!

The big lesson...

What your clients think, feel, say and tweet about their experience
buying from you determines your success or failure.

Your clients’ experiences influence what your clients say about you and whether they buy more and buy more often. Or don’t!

The big question...

Assuming you want your clients to think, feel, say and tweet positively,
don't you need to take more seriously the work of creating, planning and
delivering a great client experience for them?

Or would you prefer to leave your client experience to chance and let your client experience focused competitors reap the rewards from your lack of attention?


The experience your clients have of your firm and your products is in your hands. You can decide what and how every aspect of your firm impacts on your client.

Don’t leave this experience to chance, don’t assume it’s going ‘OK’. Instead plan it out and deliver on it well.

Start with the 4 helping hands here or read on for the full Bitesize Business Breakthrough

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Why is client experience left to chance?

Everyone is just so busy doing what they normally do every day and every week across your firm. And yet...

...if one person took responsibility for client experience, they’d make sure
your firm regularly reviewed and improved your client experience.

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology — not the other way around.”

Steve Jobs, Co-Founder and former CEO, Apple

Follow the moving target...

In a fast-changing world, achieving outstanding client experience is a moving target – it’s too risky standing still, you must adapt to your clients’ changing expectations or fail.

Your competition are improving, and client experience with other products and services are improving too – like they are at Disney, Waitrose, Uber and many other companies (see download tools for examples of world class customer experience).

To avoid the risk of becoming irrelevant, or at best just less attractive than your competitors, you have to work on your client experience delivery.

So, ask yourself:

“When did you and your team last review your clients' experience of your firm/service/products?”

STOP thinking your client experience will look after itself as you continue to do the busy day-to-day work needed in your firm.

investing team time and effort consciously improving your client experience – block off diary time for team focus.

Your simple next step...

ACTION: Set time aside – with a few key team members if you can – to investigate the experience your clients have of your firm, products and services. You want no distractions, so make it off-site if you can. Schedule 3 hours or half a day for your first session.


You build and improve your client experience when you get clear on client groups (or profiles) and get clear on the scenarios each client group experiences with your product or service.

ONLY THEN set about improving the individual interactions your clients have with your products or services.

Get clear on the client groups you want to focus on...

It would be surprising if you only served one distinctive client group.

For example, a city restaurant at lunchtime will have tourist visitors, business visitors and regular local visitors.

To deliver a great client experience, a different approach would be needed for each group. A general approach could easily alienate one or all three client groups.

Identify your different client groups but keep the groups to a minimum (2 or 3) otherwise the complexity of the client experience process becomes unmanageable.

Get clear on what your client groups value similarly (the quality and presentation of monthly or quarterly reports) but also what they value differently
(some may want monthly face-to face meetings with the team, others only want one a month and are happy to have video calls, with or without the team).

Value differences...

Client value shows up on three levels (according to Matt Watkinson in his landmark, award-winning book on customer experience,The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences’.

  • BRAND LEVEL - Brand value is the value of the object in relation to other similar objects, both in a social context and also about the owner's
    personal values and beliefs. - eg. a Mont Blanc pen signifies different
    values, status and taste compared with a Bic.
  • PRODUCT/SERVICE LEVEL - Exchange value is the economic or market value – a pig is worth two sheep, a pen is worth two pounds. This level of value is about how your product or service delivers on your client objectives.
  • INTERACTION LEVEL - Use value is the function or utility of an object – a pencil draws, a refrigerator cools.

To help you get clear on your client groups, with your team use a flip chart and pen to answer the questions applied to these levels of value (found
in the download tools at the end of this report).

Watkinson also shares a brilliant story to show how different scenarios
for the same customer result in different emotions.

“You can’t infuse the experience with the right brand values if you don’t know what they are upfront, and you can’t evaluate whether features or functions are useful without relating them back to the customer’s higher objectives. But both these things – the brand promise and the higher objectives – are delivered through each and every interaction the customer has with the business. To create a great customer experience, we need to identify what these interactions are.”

Matt Watkinson – ‘The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experience

Different scenarios also mean different value...

Imagine two different bus journeys. In the first you are heading into town to shop; in the second you’re heading to the airport to catch a flight.

Consider how you’d feel running late and missing the bus in each different scenario. Imagine your emotional response to the bus driver waiting for you on seeing you run for the bus!

Appreciating what the stakes are reveals another critical aspect of objectives: the more important the objective is, the more we become emotionally invested in it.

Here’s how you do this...

Get close to your clients...

Empathy and understanding about what matters in your client’s life (objectives/goals) can reshape the client experience you want to create.

To help you do this Watkinson recommends that you use a 4-part framework of ‘mental reconnaissance’, to help you analyse and scrutinise the detail of your clients’ lives to inform and guide your client experience.


A super-objective underpins a whole range of lower objectives:

“Brian and Jenny are on their honeymoon. Steve has a client meeting. James is attending a friend’s funeral. They are all flying economy class to San Francisco. Yet for all their similarity, the three have radically different higher objectives, and thinking about them could open up a world of opportunities for the airline.”


The difference between what people say and what they mean – the underlying thoughts and feelings that are compelling their behaviour.

Don’t treat subtext lightly. Like Watkinson says:

“The subtext is the most difficult thing to identify, and yet often is the most powerful driver of customer behaviour. 

Can you imagine a customer walking into a luxury car dealership and saying to the salesman, “I’m looking for a status symbol that will make me attractive to the opposite sex - something that shows to everyone how wealthy and powerful I am”

You build empathy with your client when you understand their motives, shining a light on their unspoken and often unrecognised shadow issues (subtext) and relating all this back to a higher objective.


The reason why your client performs an activity or task using your product or service.

Watkinson uses the airline example again to explain the success criteria:

Yes, your customer wants to arrive in San Francisco at a certain date and time, but here are some other objectives that feed into that:

  • when to go on my trip
  • find the cheapest fare
  • how to get to the airport
  • pack appropriately for the length of my stay: weather at my destination
  • get to the airport on time
  • check in my luggage, pass security

So, for example, to help with the objective to pack appropriately – why not e-mail customers a weather forecast for their destination a few days before they go to influence their choice of clothing and improve the joy of their trip?


Every client objective has a different level of importance –  for example - holiday flight vs funeral flight.

The stakes and level of risk involved determine how intently clients feel about your firm, and how their emotional experience will be impacted.

“Satisfying the high-stakes objectives is the route to a great customer experience.”

Matt Watkinson – ‘The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences

You’ll find more detail and specific actions for this 4-part framework in the downloadable tools.

Work on the nitty gritty detail too...

Brand image is one thing.

Brand reality is something far more important – especially in a world with social media.

Most client experience work reviews the detail around the moments of interaction between your firm and your clients. This is an absolute must – but only when the higher-level work has been done around client groups and client scenarios.

This report has been created to challenge your thinking and connect you to the ways and means of transforming your client experience.

In the supporting downloadable tools you’ll find guidance on building out the detail of each stage of your client experience or client journey.

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4 helping hands for you…

Your clients’ experience of your products, services and firm reflects everything your firm does and does not do.

Client experience work is a valuable undertaking. Doing it alone can work, but it works much better if you get more of your people and even (if you can) some clients involved.


Set team time aside to work through your client experience


Get clear on the 1, 2 or 3 client group profile(s) you want to focus on


Work out 2 or 3 client scenarios that have the biggest impact on your sales


Breakdown the stages and steps of client interaction to identify specific areas of improvement

Because your clients’ experience of your business interactions ultimately determines how much and how often they buy from you and recommend you, this work can transform the results of your firm.

To help you work on your clients’ experience further please check out the downloadable tools and resources.


“I know my clients intimately and I know my products intimately, do I really need to do all this work?”

You are better placed than most to build a world class client experience because you are so close to what’s happening in your firm.

Would you not be even stronger if you get clear on the high-level objectives of your 2 or 3 client groups and the scenarios that have them buying from you?

“There’s no time to do this sort of work because everyone is just so busy.”

It’s great that you’re busy but if you leave client experience improvements until you’re less busy or have more people, you might be waiting a long time. In the meantime, it’s possible your competition will improve their client experience and steal a march on you.

Why not look at the ebb and flow of your workload, and when you have a natural lull, plan in diary time to review your client experience.

One or two improvements could easily spur your firm on to greater success because your clients love you even more than they do now.


“Shouldn’t every firm review client experience annually?”

Ultimately your clients are the ‘Paymaster General’ for your firm. Without them buying from you the firm fails to exist.

By reviewing your client experience, you consciously and deliberately put your clients front and central in your and your team’s mind. Whether you do this annually, or twice a year, or more often is up to you. Don’t you think it at least pays to give it a go this once and see what happens to your client reaction and sales results?

Check out the downloadable tools for extra videos, resources and exercises to help fully review your client experience. You’ll also find many examples of good, bad and ugly customer experiences to inspire you.

Your 'Client Experience' checklist:

If you’re persuaded to take your client experience seriously, you’ll earn the right to a sustainable competitive advantage and the positive financial results that follow from the positive reputation this brings.


Set team time aside

3-4 hours, ideally offsite to follow through on the actions suggested throughout this report


Get clear on the 1, 2 or 3 client profile(s) you want to focus on

Every client is different however you’ll see obvious client groups around which you can build world-class client experience.

NB. Remember to think 80/20 when identifying a minimum number of client groups – approximately 20% of clients bring 80% of your profits.


Work out 2 or 3 client scenarios that have the biggest impact on your sales and profits

Use the 4-part ‘mental reconnaissance’ framework suggested by Matt Watkinson earlier in this report.

Remember that the higher the emotional stakes, the greater the impact on client experience (either positively or negatively)


Break down each scenario into stages and steps to help decide what needs to be changed

what changes need to be made to improve your clients’ experience at each stage?

As always, it’s not knowing about a business breakthrough that works, it’s about putting it to work! Use the downloadable support tools to help you build better client experience for your firm.

Want to know more?

To discover more about how to create a winning customer experience we recommend reading this book.

The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences

Matt Watkinson

Clients matter, they can make noise about you, good or bad, they decide the future of your firm and their expectations are high. This book covers the ten principles you must use to ensure you improve your clients experience with your firm. This book offers you the opportunity to create a great client experience and give your firm the edge over your competition.


Click the button below and you'll find a selection of practical support tools to ensure you invest time and effort in your firm to constantly improve your client experience.


This report is shared by

Paul Shrimpling
Paul Shrimpling, Managing Director


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