Ask the expert: Client retention

Featuring Greg Lockhart, President, Lockhart Industries

Building client loyalty

Q: In a recent survey of top accounting firms, “acquiring and retaining new clients” was one of the top concerns. So, should firms focus more on client acquisition or client retention?

A: Both are important, but client retention is more important because acquiring new clients is more expensive — and harder. The Harvard Business Review estimated that it costs five to 25 times more to land a new client than to retain an existing client. So, the data clearly shows that focusing energy and resources on client retention strategies is more important to your bottom line than prospecting for new clients. Build client loyalty first. That’s the key takeaway.

Q: If client retention is worth that much to a firm’s bottom line, how do you think accounting firms can do a better job of building client loyalty?

A: Client loyalty begins when clients truly feel valued — and feel they are receiving a high level of customer service and personal attention. With the rise of “paperless” and “no-touch” accounting, it’s clear that many accounting firms are simply forgetting about the importance of creating a customized, personalized service for their clients — and this may be costing them in client loyalty. There is a “human touch” component that really differentiates the way a customer experiences a particular brand, and this affects a client’s feelings and loyalty to that brand over the long term.

Q: What do you mean by brand experience? And how can accounting firms improve their client loyalty with a better brand experience?

A: Brand experience is really user experience — your client’s experience. So if you want to conduct a simple “brand experience audit” for your firm, just put yourself in your client’s shoes and ask this question: “How do our clients actually experience — and feel — about interacting with our brand?” Is your firm providing the optimal customer service experience for your clients, or are you becoming a “utility”?

Q: With “no-touch” accounting on the rise, how does a CPA or an accounting firm create a personal touch and improve its brand experience?

A: Well, let’s just look at the typical tax return experience from a client’s perspective. Most CPAs send their clients a password-protected link to a PDF of their tax return. So what is that brand experience like? Let’s face it; no client wants to print their own tax returns; it’s a pain. This is why many of the top accounting firms also invest in sending printed tax returns to their clients. It provides a higher level of customer service and builds brand loyalty. A neuroscience study on the tactile power of print found that 88% of Americans believe they understand, retain, or use information better when they read print. That’s data worth thinking about.

To learn more about Lockhart’s custom tax folders, visit

Lockhart Industries

For almost half a century, Lockhart’s custom-branded Tax Return & Presentation Folders have helped thousands of prominent accounting firms and financial professionals brand their image of excellence, improve their brand experience, and impress and win more high-value clients.