A Small Giants Company’s Story of Revamping their Client Experience Practices
When faced with an uncomfortable rate of client attrition that was impacting revenue and growth, the leadership team at Venturity knew they needed to make some changes. And being a Small Giants company, they didn’t simply try to slap bandages on the issue. Instead, they paused to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
In 2017, Venturity, a CXO and accounting services firm, formed a Client Experience work group to strategically solve for the attrition of clients. This group’s task was to look at what kind of partnerships they wanted with their clients and to make sure that these relationships were set up to be healthy and valuable for both parties. They knew that they needed to improve their efforts in regards to crucial conversations and setting expectations, and to have clear guidelines for everybody to follow. Before they could start any of this, though, the Venturity team knew they needed to revisit their values, and then ensure that any materials produced also aligned with their culture.
In addition, the world of accounting continues to change as more and more services become commoditized and automated. And so, the leadership team recognized that in order for their company to succeed in the evolving industry, they needed to stand out by being an emblem for building strong relationships.
With a goal of improving their clients’ life cycle experience, as well as align all Venturity employees to the core values, the Client Experience group met as a committee for two years to create a comprehensive program. They created the tagline “Get the Call” to spur on positive action.
Creating a Client Experience Training Series
The Client Experience group took their time developing their plan, as well as rolling it out, to ensure that it came at a pace that was manageable for the entire team. Even though some departments don’t work as directly with the clients, everyone at Venturity is still working towards the net goal of providing an exceptional accounting experience. They rolled out the entire program in 2019, and have committed to conducting the training again in 2023 with the continuous goal of $0 controllable attrition. Let’s take a look at what they covered.
Intro to the Client Experience program - Mission and Passions
We all need a refresher from time to time, and it’s always helpful to revisit core values and cultural material. This first training session was all about introducing the Venturity team to the Client Experience sessions, making sure that everyone was clear about and aligned with their values.
Their mission is: At Venturity, we are passionate about providing an exceptional accounting experience for those who value the benefit of great accounting and the opportunity to learn and grow. And the values - or Passions, as Venturity calls them - are crucial to ensuring that the mission is fulfilled and Venturity is able to provide that exceptional experience.
During this kickstarter training session, employees…
- Reviewed the Mission and Passions, and why they’re articulated the way they are
- Learned how and why the Mission and Passions were developed
- Learned the role that the Mission and Passions play at Venturity
- Watched a video of the rollout of the Mission and Passions to the team
It’s not just about what they do, but who they are, that makes them stand out from competitors. Sometimes, we all need a reminder of what to take pride in. And this first session set the tone for the ones to follow.
VenTrusted Advisor Training
After aligning on the Mission and Passions, The Client Experience group developed the Trusted Advisor Approach, which is all about building trust with clients so that there’s a feeling of goodwill and mutual investment. Providing accounting services for a client is a very sensitive matter - data and the accounting itself must be incredibly accurate, but also the relationship experience is crucial so that the client feels a high level of trust. And therefore, being a trusted advisor isn’t just about ticking boxes on a task list, but also about cultivating consistent and attractive behaviors.
In the session, they present The Five Levels of a Client Relationship, which are:
- Vendor (provider of a service)
- Solutions provider (preferred vendor)
- Consultant (value added to service)
- Business partner (strategic assistant)
- Trusted advisor
The goal is to reach that last bullet, and become a trusted advisor. Employees were then asked to consider their clients, rate them according to the Five Levels, write out any obstacles in the way of achieving that VenTrusted status, and then discuss with their table.
Next, in the session they go over the VenTrusted attitudes, which are:
They also reviewed the VenTrusted behaviors, which are:
- Builds rapport
- Asks questions
- Builds trust
They delve into each of these points individually, offering clear definitions and examples of how to live out the attitudes and behaviors. Living out the VenTrusted attitudes and behaviors gets employees closer to building that trusted advisor relationship, and also complements Venturity’s Passions.
Setting & Monitoring Relationship Expectations
Once the foundation is established amongst the Venturity team to ensure that they greet clients with a unified attitude and quality of care, it’s time to bring the client into the mix. During the research stage, the Client Experience work group identified misaligned or unclear expectations as a large contributing factor to their rates of client attrition. To combat this, they created and trained everyone on the Expectation Summary Tool, a system used to document both parties' mutual expectations for the relationship. The tool can be used by the client to assure them they have a measure of accountability towards their accounting provider, but equally it can be used by Venturity as something tangible to show if a client isn’t living up to their commitments.
The Client Experience work group also discovered through data that much of their client attrition occurred without warning. It’s not enough to establish expectations at the onset of the relationship, and then carry on with the day-to-day tasks of accounting; there needs to be recurring time set aside for Venturity to check-in with their clients. And so, they walked through what a regroup meeting should look like:
- 60-90 minutes long
- Attendees should be two Venturity Leadership members and key client personnel
- Agenda should be structured to create open dialogue about the status of the relationship
- Meetings should happen: upon transition to a team, 90 days after that initial transition, and annually thereafter, or at the discretion of any Venturity team member
The time is meant to check in and see if there are any evolving definitions of success for the client, and if each party feels that desired mutual investment.
Previously, Venturity didn’t have anything in place to measure ongoing client satisfaction. In an effort to diminish those surprise contract terminations and make the most of the regroup meetings, the Client Experience group created a survey. This survey is automated to send to all clients every 90 days. It asks “How likely are you to refer Venturity to a colleague or friend?” and allows room for comments. It offers an impression of care to their clients and also allows Venturity to step in if there’s a dip in score before the issue gets out of hand.
So far, the survey has also been an area for encouragement and motivation, as they have a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 91, which is well above the average when compared to other accounting firms.
The final session in the program is focused on crucial conversations. It’s important to document expectations, track satisfaction, and check in with clients, but what do you do if things aren’t going well? All of that data and documentation can’t go to waste - unfortunately, it’s time to have a difficult conversation with the client. However, when all of the previous steps are done thoroughly, typically these uncomfortable situations are lessened. For one thing, the issue is being handled from the onset, before it can snowball and be harder to come back from. And second, if expectations have been clearly established, then it’s easier to pinpoint why and where exactly the issue is stemming from, and then that expectation can be the focus on where to put problem-solving efforts.
If these crucial conversations are had early and handled with respect, then if the issue persists, there is less surprise and more consensus that the relationship is not succeeding for both parties. After all, if it’s the client that is not fulfilling their commitments, then Venturity may have the grounds to end the relationship to prioritize and protect the wellbeing of their employees.
A Return on Investment
It took the Client Experience work group a lot of time and diligence to hone in on a clear message and valuable training materials, but the effort is already paying off.
The sessions have been well received by the whole Venturity team, even those who may not have felt an immediate connection to clients before due to their role. But the sessions allowed everyone to come together and remember that they’re all at Venturity to fulfill a common mission, and each one has their own personal connection to the mission.
They also have significant data to support the success of the training program. Within the last three years, Venturity has reduced controllable attrition by almost 50% and continues their drive to reach $10 million in revenue in 2024. This is double the revenue they earned their first year of using the Great Game of Business (2017).
Obviously, those numbers are favorable. But it’s also a good sign for the future of Venturity’s relationships with their clients. The reduced attrition means that they can turn down prospective clients who are not aligned or cause trouble for their team. This, in turn, allows them to better look out for their team, and to better serve the clients who value that mutual investment.
Accounting can be seen as an impersonal industry, yet Venturity has always sought to be an outlier from that stereotype. They committed to the task of designing and presenting an extensive series of sessions to get everyone on the same page when it comes to Client Experience efforts. Because of their efforts, they’ve improved profitability, redefined expectations, and have set themselves up for a culturally strong chapter for the entire company. They’re prepared to “Get the Call”, and so much more.