Hitendra Patil, Author, Accountaneur
“We do not choose between experiences, we choose between memories of experiences. Even when we think about the future, we do not think of our future normally, [as in] the experiences. We think the future of our anticipated memories.” Explains Daniel Kahneman , widely regarded as the world’s most influential living psychologist. Kahneman won the Nobel in Economics for his pioneering work in behavioral economics. In his intriguing TED talk, Kahneman lucidly explained the riddle of experience v/s memory.
What Can it Mean for Accounting professionals?
If we try to put it in accounting terminology, our each “experience” is a transaction entered into our accounting system (brain) and each “memory” is the effect of that transaction reflecting on our “balance sheet” (life)!
“Memories” once created are not easy to erase and “reinforcing negative memories” can hasten the client decisions to go away. Conversely, “reinforcing positive memories” can increase customer loyalty.
Therefore, to convert your clients into your “fans”, as an accountant, you want to create positive balance in the balance sheets of your clients. And you can create those positive balances by creating positive memories through the experiences that you recurringly give to your clients. Hence you’ll want to ask them specifically and you’ll want to really know about such experiences and memories.
Your clients take for granted that the you will deliver on the basic function that your engagement is designed to achieve - complete a tax return, provide a financial statement, deliver an audit report and so on. It is natural for you to focus on being the most effective “technician” to deliver the most accurate, timely and high-quality deliverables.
However, in your clients’ experience journey, if receiving the delivery of a basic function is difficult, not smooth and requires too many steps to complete, all you are creating are bad memories.
What Can You Do to Create Positive Memories in Your Clients’ Minds?
It’s not just your personal phone conversation or face-to-face meeting with your client that will create memorable experience. It’s actually all those “touch-points” through which your client travels before he/she is interacts with you.
- The “warmth and genuine care” that client feels when they call in and you or your receptionist pick up the phone (provided you don’t make people wait to hear till the 7th ring!).
- The way you give “control” to the client when you cannot immediately attend the call or cannot immediately answer his/her query e.g. “Mike is on another call. Do you prefer to hold on or would you speak to Bob – who can also help? Or do you want Mike to call you back?”. People do not want to feel helpless and accept the default choice. They want to choose their own experiences.
- The way you “highlight” certain things the clients must look at in those reports, and the way you place those little “post-its” to explain or provide some background on the highlighted areas – all of them make the client actually feel your “touch”. Compare this to a print-out of balance sheet, fresh from the printer, packed in the envelope and delivered to the client – directing all the “hard-work” of making sense onto the client!
The list can go on and you know what your various touch points are. Look for opportunities for creating memorable experiences. Review how many number of times your firm “touches” your clients and the flow thereof and make appropriate changes to make each touch memorable.
Reinforcing Memories Of Experiences
Now comes the difficult part. It is often said that human memory is short. Pain is remembered more than gain! So you are up against a proven psychological wall. What can you do? Here are some ideas.
- The first thing, of course, is to remind the client about their specific happy experiences with you, immediately and after some time – may be a month after the experience and then again after, say a year. Simple emails will do.
- The second is to help client “celebrate the experience”. How about sending a congratulations greeting card with the balance sheet when you see that the month-on-month performance has improved?
- Third - Share happy memories of your clients with your other clients. No need to disclose confidential information here but just having testimonials on your website is not sufficient. How about sharing some noteworthy achievements of your clients with others every month? It tells the other clients of the possibilities of positive experiences (awareness) that they have not experienced yet (and this will also help you overcome the problem of underselling, without being pushy).
Again, the list can go on. Find multiple opportunities to share, remind and celebrate happy experiences. Reinforce memory.
These examples and thoughts are a starting point. Can you afford not being there in the assets side of the “balance sheet” of your clients’ lives?
Hitendra Patil, the author, is the Chief Operating Officer of Pransform, a firm laser-focussed on providing life-liberating work choices for its clients. He says “At Pransform, in everything we do, we believe in enriching Accountants' lives. The way we enrich the lives of Accountants is by delivering freedom from the daily drudgery of handling data and documents; so that Accountants can entirely focus on applying their knowledge, intellect and wisdom to make financial lives of their clients better. As the end result of our services and solutions, clients love their Accountants more; Accountants enjoy a better quality of life by achieving better work-life balance; and all of this with greater profitability. And we happen to provide great back office processing services and technology solutions for Accounting Professionals”.