Running a CPA firm today is very different than just a few years ago:
- Competition is intense,
- there are a lot of choices out there and
- customers have unprecedented access to research your firm online and compare services between firms.
More importantly, your customers now make decisions based on what their friends and colleagues say about you.
And one of their main sources of information about you is social media.
With so much information available to prospective clients, CPA practices have to differentiate themselves by becoming much more than accountants. They have to offer a wide variety of advisory products and services which have nothing to do with accounting just to keep the clients they already have, not to mention bring in new business. They have to respond to their customers’ needs quickly. And accountants themselves — who went to school for accounting, not business development — are now expected to consistently bring in business to advance in their careers.
This is not the future folks, it’s the present. All kinds of conversations about accountants, and possibly your firm, are happening all the time on social media. And if you are not listening to what people are saying, you might be missing out on potentially huge opportunities to grow your business, respond to customer concerns and offer something you haven’t even considered.
Some firms outside the CPA world have embraced the changes and set up social media war rooms whose full-time job is to monitor and respond to people’s comments. These brands have seen the hard-dollar value of listening and responding on social media instead of simply promoting themselves. (Self-promotion is the wrong way to use social media anyway; more about this in future blog posts.)
Here are a few examples of how this has worked:
A couple of years ago I went to visit a client on-site to work on their nascent social media strategy. When I arrived my client had a very frustrated look and tone about her. When I asked what was wrong she said, “I am having trouble getting (Large Telecommunications Company Which Begins With V but Shall Not be Named) to respond to my problem. The service isn’t working and they overbilled me.” She was more than frustrated and could not focus on our session.
“Send them a tweet,” I casually suggested. As soon as I finished my sentence she looked at me like I had three heads. “Seriously, this could be a great lesson how to use social media effectively.”
Finally she agreed to send them a tweet. Within minutes she received a response from them. A week later she said she received the best customer service of her life, and her issue was resolved quickly and professionally.
The COO of Whitman Business Advisors, David Wolfskehl, told me about an issue he had with his tractor which was not resolved. He took to LinkedIn, found the person in charge of customer complaints and reached out directly to him.
The director took his contact information and, within four minutes, was put in touch with the customer service team who immediately got on the ball. David also had the best experience of his life.
Your humble author recently had a problem with LinkedIn, my go-to network for lead generation. Apparently they removed an important feature which upset me greatly.
The first thing I did was post questions on my personal Facebook page, as well as a Facebook group specifically for social media professionals. Nobody could figure out what to do next. So instead of sending LinkedIn a private request I took to Twitter and said the following:
And here is the response I received, along with the rest of our conversation:
How are these companies able to monitor such conversations? Believe it or not there are social media listening tools which crawl social media for the conversations subscribers are interested in. One of the most popular (and expensive) social listening tools is Radian6. If you cannot afford R6 you can start listening with free tools such as Topsy or SocialMention to start listening to conversations and upgrade later once you start getting value from it.
Hopefully now you can see the power and potential — and challenges — social media creates for CPA firms.
Does your practice have a social media listening strategy?
If so, how is it working for you? If not, what do you think you are missing by not listening to what your customers want and addressing their concerns?
photo credit: Bernard Baruch Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking via photopin (license)