Why your firm needs a client service manager

The rise of the service-based accounting practice

Practice excellence entrants who employ client managers typically earn twice the average fees of non-dedicated client teams, and have higher than average overall earnings. And this number once again highlights the rise of the client service manager in accounting.

In this blog, we’ll outline how the new "client service manager" (CSM) role fits within a modern firm. We’ll highlight the right people to hire for the role, how to develop best practice for this position and the impact the role has on the relationships you build with your clients.

We’ll also look at how your firm’s software must support this increased focus on client relationships, and how efficient online tools help your client service team to offer a high-quality and high-value service to clients – utilising all the benefits of cloud-based working.

By finding the most effective people for the CSM role, and integrating your systems in the most efficient and productive ways, you create the bedrock for the best in customer service.

The role of the accountant has changed – relationships are king

The purpose and structure of accounting firms is changing, as we highlighted in our previous blog – "How to become a 21st century accountant". The tide is shifting away from basic accounting and compliance work, towards a focus on client service and relationships.

This shift is evolving the way that forward-thinking firms structure their practice:

Reduction in basic compliance – software has picked up much of the basic data-entry, admin and compliance work, meaning your team can spend less time on the accounting basics and more time dealing directly with clients and delivering hands-on value.

Greater emphasis on client service – business owners are increasingly savvy when it comes to managing their own basic accounts. What they want from their accountant is a higher level of advice, more regular interactions and a more personal kind of service.

Increase in value-add services – helping clients to integrate their software systems, automate their basic finance processes and even outsource their finance function all adds intrinsic value – creating opportunities for you to expand your service offerings.

Relationship-building as a strategy – your key strategy should now be to offer a wide range of value-add services to clients, and to proactively look to build long-term relationships with existing business clients and your grade-A targets.

The client service manager – a new kind of accounting role

To improve your focus on client service, you need a role whose primary function is to deliver, promote and enhance your customer-facing strategy and one-to-one interactions. This is where having a client service manager on the team makes a tangible difference to your service.

But what does this role consist of? And what skill set should you be looking for when promoting or hiring your perfect client service manager?

The ideal CSM combines four key skill areas:

Client service – your ideal CSM has to be a driven, proactive self-starter – someone who puts the client’s needs top of their priority list. They need to be organised and deadline-driven. And they need to manage your internal team to ensure that every client deadline, every deliverable and every monthly report is delivered on time.

Relationship building – your CSM is not a number cruncher. Their priority is looking after a portfolio of clients and making sure these businesses are happy. They will be the instigator of one-to-one meetings, the person who picks up the phone to talk through queries and the team member who nurtures client relationships towards long-term growth.

Tech-savvy – the CSM won’t be doing the primary accounting work, but they do need to be up-to-date with the latest cloud accounting and fintech apps/software. It’s this awareness of tech that will help them suggest solutions for clients, and will provide the foundational basis for managing the firm’s own client service delivery.

Commercial knowledge – offering sound advice is a huge part the CSM role. As a trusted advisor to clients, the ideal CSM needs a drilled-down knowledge of finance, business and the commercial markets your clients trade in. Knowing clients’ challenges, listening to their worries and helping resolve them is central to the role.

Software that supports superior service – the right tools for the job

It’s the human, personal skills that mark out a great CSM. But with technology becoming ever-more embedded within the modern accounting firm, it’s also important that your CSM both understands and utilises the best in software tools.

So, where can software be worked into your client service processes? And how should the CSM be using these platforms, solutions and mobile apps to enhance their touch points with clients?

Efficient workflows and internal processes – at the most basic level, cloud accounting and practice management software helps to systemise and streamline your internal workflows. The automation, AI and machine learning functionality of modern apps reduce the workload – freeing up client-facing time for your CSM and team.

Access to real-time numbers and reporting – with your accounting systems delivering real-time numbers, the CSM has access to the most current reporting, management accounts and data analysis. These provide a starting point for client conversations, help you to resolve issues and keep the CSM in tune with the client’s business journey.

Improved communication and one-to-one interactions – online communication tools, whether Skype, Slack or Google Hangouts, help your CSM to stay in touch with clients. Wherever the client is in the world, a quick call can help to sort out any urgent problems, or keep the MD in the loop with progress on bigger financial and strategic projects.

Customising client’s business systems – knowing your apps from your API also helps clients to improve their own systems. A detailed knowledge of the available software tools means your CSM can suggest a new card payment app, streamline a client’s CRM processes or help them get their bookkeeping automated.

Insights through data forecasting – the data processing and analytics power of modern software make it easier than ever to produce financial forecasts. Armed with projections of sales, revenue and cash flow, your CSM can bring real insight to clients – and advise on actions to take; whether it’s a strategy change or a cost reduction.

Putting client service at the heart of your firm

As client relationships become ever more important to the firm, it’s critical that your structure, key talent and software systems support this emphasis on building long-term partnerships.

WIth the client service manager role embedded at the heart of your firm’s structure, their job becomes fundamental to the evolution of your practice, and key to creating the necessary customer service levels and valuable business support your clients expect in 2017.

How Capium helps modern accountants

Capium is a cloud-based accounting and practice management package, which meets the daily demands of accounting practices. There is now no need for separate systems, as Capium allows you to run your whole business under one system. With our six key modules, we allow accountants to conduct all processes in a secure, speedy and user-friendly manner.

Find out more at www.capium.com