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Online Reviews and Why Accountancy Practices Must Respond

We’re all used to sharing our experiences online – from the restaurants we visit, to the products we buy and the services we procure.  Here, Louise Wilson, head of finance sector at Moneypenny shares why accountancy practices can make online reviews work harder for business.

To protect and grow client revenues and cater for the shifting demands of financial consumers – firms find themselves needing to put greater focus on the client experience. Two thirds of firms[1] say they have an actionable plan in place to improve client service but in a world where ‘shared experiences’ fill the internet – accountancy practices must acknowledge the power of the customer and their feedback. The drivers for this are almost certainly the shift in the way consumers expect to source a finance professional. The prevalence of digital channels is in part responsible – helped by Covid driving us all online – and we now expect the same level of experience, accessibility and choice from our professional partners, as we do the big brands we buy from.

Why are online reviews important?

 While reviews may feel more synonymous with FMCG businesses – they have tremendous value for professional services. Whether it’s Trustpilot, Google, Yelp or social media, clients will be leaving reviews – the question is whether their value is being fully maximised by firms.

Reviews provide transparency of quality, capability, price and staff. Reviews take some of the ‘unknowns’ out of purchasing decisions and make us feel informed – as if we have the inside track. They help us to compare, make an educated choice and put our trust in that decision.

In fact, 91%[2] of 18-34 year olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, 93%[3] of consumers say that online reviews influence their buying decisions and 64%[4] of consumers check online reviews on Google before visiting a business —which is more than any other review site. During 2020, the year of ‘staying at home’ thanks to Covid-19, 31%[5] of people said they read and referred to more reviews.

Reviews have the power to deliver more work to accountancy practices. The satisfaction level of existing clients can determine the number of new business recommendations a firm receives. Online review portals are the ideal place for clients to act as ambassadors.

There are four steps to harness the power of reviews:

 

1. Anticipate  

Making the decision to embrace and encourage reviews requires firms to first ensure they have an appetite to listen and learn and that they have, or are moving to, a more client-centric culture.   It is particularly useful to anticipate the sort of feedback you might receive – good and bad – so that you can make proactive changes to your approach to client care. For example, if your practice has felt the effects of being understaffed or a new tech tool is making your VAT processes quicker, these might come through in reviews.

A client-centric mindset will help to ensure that their experiences govern your decision making – which in turn will help to deliver a greater number of good reviews. Giving regular attention to how clients are onboarded, the proactivity of client communication, the nature of SLA commitments, response times and accessibility will all help here.  It also provides an opportunity to think about how reviews will be responded to in advance and devise an online reviews policy so that it’s clear who should respond internally, and how to do so.

2. Respond

Reviews require responses.  Negative reviews are what the industry fears but, when handled properly and proactively they needn’t be so damaging. Engaging with the review, responding in a friendly human tone and showing a desire to make restitution and improvements, can bring balance to poor reviews.  It also provides an opportunity to thank reviewers for their feedback and to reiterate important key messages about your approach to client care.  Also, whether a review is glowing or damning, every single one should be responded to. Research suggests that online reviewers expect a response within seven days[6]. As 97%[7] of those who read online reviews also read business’ responses, it’s important to act.

3. Be ready

Consider what happens when a prospective client acts on a positive review and reaches out – perhaps via email, a live chat function or Google click to call.  They should be met with a first impression to match the glowing endorsement.  As 68%[8] of firms still do not answer all inbound calls and 29%[9] do not consider their website an important communications channel – it would seem that accountancy practices aren’t as ready as they could be. Ensuring calls are answered promptly and efficiently, that call backs, quotes and queries are handled quickly and that websites are rich in information and interactivity are all vital in order to maximise the power of good reviews. Anything less could see a new client opportunity missed.

4. Invite

With the earlier steps in place, firms will start to feel more confident and willing to ask for reviews on external sites. Inviting people to give feedback and share their experiences proactively not only shows a degree of confidence in service levels and standards, but as the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICEAW) said: “Unless you actively seek our reviews from your clients, those making the effort to post a review will typically be those dissatisfied with the service…”[10].

The increasing use of online reviews presents an opportunity for accountancy practices to interrogate their service levels and look at the client experience as a whole. In doing so they equip themselves with all the components for a glowing endorsement – and plenty of those will impact business development, revenue growth and brand reputation for the better.

ENDS

For more information about Moneypenny’s work in the financial sector visit:

www.moneypenny.com/uk/accountancy-answering-services/

 

[1] Taken from Moneypenny’s Future Focus Accountancy Report 2021

[2] BrightLocal data from 2018

[3] Research by Podium: http://learn.podium.com/rs/841-BRM-380/images/2017-SOOR-Infographic.jpg

[4] ReviewTracker data quoted here: https://www.reviewtrackers.com/reports/online-reviews-survey/

[5] BrightLocal data: https://www.brightlocal.com/research/local-consumer-review-survey/

[6] Data from ReviewTracker 2018

[7] BrightLocal data 2019

[8] Taken from Moneypenny’s Future Focus Accountancy Report 2021

[9] Taken from Moneypenny’s Future Focus Accountancy Report 2021

[10] https://www.icaew.com/-/media/corporate/files/helpsheets/ethics/online-reviews.ashx

Louise Wilson

Louise Wilson

Moneypenny
Head of the Finance Sector at Moneypenny. Moneypenny has more than 1,000 staff and handles more than 20 million customer communications a year, for 21,000 companies, ranging from multi-nationals to start-ups. It has grown rapidly in the last four years, from £19 million revenue p/a to a projected £50 million this year. It is known for its award winning culture, its excellent customer service and low staff turnover.