"Client service is a large part of each of the positions for which we hire."
– Mary Campagnolo, Director of Marketing, Tate & Tryon
Mary Campagnolo, director of marketing at CPA firm Tate & Tryon, sees excellent customer service as a key differentiator for small and regional businesses. "In our industry, smaller businesses or boutique firms can't tout the bench strength of larger, national firms," she says. "But we can take advantage of our smaller staff size and structure, which gives us the agility to deliver very close, personalized attention. This first-rate service is what our clients have come to expect from us – and it's what keeps them coming back."
Campagnolo says client service has become even more important as a result of the recession: "Because budgets are tight, most organizations are looking to get the most value from the money they spend. When you provide top-notch customer service, it reinforces the buying decision and demonstrates to clients that their dollars go further with us."
When Tate & Tryon receives comments from clients citing specific staff members or instances of excellent customer service, the firm often forwards these comments to the entire department or organization. Campagnolo believes encouraging employee teams in this way helps keep client service top of mind for them. "We publicly recognize our staff members for outstanding service based on comments we receive from clients," she notes. "It reinforces the importance of what they do for our clients, which motivates them to provide even higher levels of service."
Client Service Superstars
Campagnolo feels that most of the ability to offer excellent customer service is innate and not a "trainable" trait. That's why it's critical to hire the right people in the first place, she says. "Client service is a large part of each of the positions for which we hire. Thus, it is not only important for the candidate to be a strong accountant but also a strong communicator and listener."
The firm looks for accountants who are outspoken and not afraid to bring up problems or sensitive issues. "Part of their job is to improve systems for clients, and if they do not know how to approach difficult conversations with maturity and confidence, they will not survive in our profession," she notes.
"We typically know after the first six months if we hired the right person," Campagnolo explains. "Clients are very vocal about the quality of the teams that work on their accounts. Plus, we meet with our other employees to find out if we've made the right match for them in terms of a fellow team member. A successful accountant at our firm will be able to focus on understanding the clients he or she works with and tailoring our accounting services to their needs."
Tate & Tryon is a regional public accounting and consulting firm specializing exclusively in auditing, tax, outsourcing and advisory services for nonprofit organizations. The Firm also provides technology services and financial systems consulting through T3 Information Systems, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tate & Tryon. T3 specializes in the Microsoft Dynamics GP (Great Plains) accounting system, as well as business intelligence and planning software that meet the unique needs of the nonprofit community.