Continuity equals retention. Clients typically have many choices and choose a firm based on varying criteria including comfort, trust, fees, location, niche expertise and service philosophy. This question must be answered, “Will the clients of the seller see you more as an addition to the equation or will they see a huge change?”
Change is not comfortable for many, and if the client perceives the change will be negative, whether from a location, fee or service methodology perspective, client retention may be adversely impacted. Maximizing continuity traditionally helps retain a much higher percentage of the clients. Change is inevitable. Therefore how you choose to manage the change and the methodology of initiating the change is critical to retention and will enable future opportunity.
All the time, effort, energy and resources expended putting together an affiliation between firms will be wasted if absolute measures are not taken to ensure success. A detailed transition plan is critical because without a plan the parties are inviting failure – or, at the very least, encouraging challenges that are not necessary.
There are several keys to client and staff retention. Use the acronym “TRACK” to help you develop a transition plan.
- Transition plans must be jointly developed and executed. This will ensure a well-represented plan.
- Realize that change experienced by the clients (not necessarily just internal change) produces questions and insecurities for both staff and clients. A good transition plan addresses most, if not all of, of these questions.
- Acknowledge that a good transition plan includes all components of practice management such as technology, personnel, training, location(s), processes and timelines, workflow, licensing, etc.
- Continuity equals retention of both staff and clients. Keep initial changes that the clients will see (for example, they won’t care if you change the software) to a minimum and implemented over time.
- Keep emphasizing to all (staff, clients and partners) the gain of the new combined firm: partners, talents and services, not the loss of the old one.
More information on client and staff retention:
- How to Maximize Client Retention After a Merger by Joel Sinkin and Terrence Putney, Journal of Accountancy, c2014
- Keeping it Together: Plan the Transition to Retain Staff and Clients (Part 2 of 2) by Joel Sinkin and Terrence Putney, AICPA, c2009
- The Long Goodbye by Joel Sinkin and Terrence Putney. Journal of Accountancy, c2013