Could ‘Moments of Truth’ be Jeopardizing Your Client Retention?

If client retention is a major concern for your firm, you are not alone. In fact, it ranked as the top challenge for CPAs according to the latest AICPA PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues Survey. Results revealed that holding on to good clients is crucial for practitioners going forward. A Like it or not, in this new economy where cost-cutting and employee layoffs are the norm, client relationships are in great danger. Unfortunately, most firms have less people to take care of valued clients, with many stretched to their limits. To make matters worse, clients are becoming more critical and demanding of their advisors.

What’s the Answer?

It’s more essential than ever for leaders to identify areas in which their firms are in jeopardy with clients. Then find new, efficient ways to positively impact each relationship. One area that can put clients at risk without you realizing it is during ‘moments of truth’.

Moments of Truth

The term ‘moment of truth’ was coined by Jan Carlzon, former President of Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) when challenged to turn the ailing organization around in turbulent times, much like today. He used the phrase to refer to instances where interactions between the business and its customers occurred. Whether with a person such as a ticket agent, flight attendant or pilot, or something representing the airline including food, baggage policies, wait times, or airplane cleanliness, each signified interactions between customers and SAS. During those interfaces or ‘moments of truth’ was when customers formed perceptions about the organization. Both good and bad, those perceptions ultimately impacted their decision to fly SAS. During extensive research, Carlzon learned that most customers didn’t understand the technical aspects of the airline business. In fact most didn’t know, or care what type of airplane they were flying. What did matter was each customer’s interaction with the airline. More than transporting customers safely from one place to another, Carlzon learned that each ‘moment of truth’ must be outstanding if SAS wanted to keep customers coming back. Ultimately everyone and everything in the organization impacted how customers perceived all that the airline represented.

Your Firm’s ‘Moments of Truth’

What are your ‘moments of truth’? Is your firm making positive impressions at each juncture? Just like Carlzon, your big “ah ha” may be recognizing that client retention is a profit-generating function involving a stronger focus on client-centric interactions versus communicating technical ones. It requires accepting that most clients and potential clients don’t have a comprehension or interest in what goes into preparing complex returns, audits or valuations. It involves focusing on what matters most to them such as:

  • How your team makes them feel during an engagement and beyond
  • How you present findings to clients so you get paid for all you’re worth
  • How you share new advice and insight to help them meet or exceed goals

Three Critical Moments of Truth

Although there are many ‘moments of truth’, consider three critical ones: 1. First impressions First impressions are often where expectations are highest. These impressions are critical to successfully retaining clients and winning new business. Just one snag can cause doubt. Consider all potential connections that clients and prospects can have with your firm, whether it’s an employee or something inanimate representing your firm: • Receptionist • Appointment setting • Directions • Accessibility • Website • Physical facility • Professionals representing the firm • Sales and proposal processes • Billing policies2. Welcoming new clients Although most firms do a good job at luring clients many fall short in welcoming them once the deal is done. Beware! This is another critical juncture where clients form lasting impressions. Slip-ups can damage their overall experience, and ultimately influence decisions to retain your firm in the future. It’s important to consider areas such as how you: • Gain clarity about overall goals and expectations • Learn about preferred methods of communication • Introduce the engagement team and the firm3. Presentation delivery To you it may just be another report, but to your clients it represents performance. This is another critical stage on which you’ll be judged. Expectations are high. Since clients generally don’t understand or care all that went into preparing their reports, your delivery not only impacts their decision to stay with you, but your bottom line. • Are you making time to review reports with clients, or do you leave them at the front desk for pickup? • Are your reports presented and packaged in a way that represent the countless hours of work and expertise involved in preparing them? As a result do they make clients feel good about their decision to retain you? • Are your reports prepared in a manner that allows for easy navigation and archival? • Do you provide clients with an opportunity to approve final documents? • Do you use final reports as a springboard to introduce new insight focused on helping clients become more profitable and efficient going forward? • Are your reports presented in a way that allows them to brand your firm long after they have been delivered to your clients?

So, what are your ‘moments of truth’? Is your firm doing all that it can to make positive impressions during each one? Does your firm:


  • Deliver the “Wow” to get paid for all you’re worth?
  • Generate more revenue by branding an image of excellence?
  • Increase client retention by delivering a premium client experience?

Let Lockhart Give Your Firm a Competitive Advantage in your ‘Moments of Truth’

For nearly 30 years, Lockhart has helped thousands of clients create positive, lasting impressions that have resulted in increased client retention and stronger bottom lines. During this time, Lockhart has been committed to helping professionals demonstrate the personal care and effort that goes into each engagement, along with the confidence to present new insight to help clients achieve greater success. Whether it’s preparing a winning proposal, a critical report, or other client deliverables, Lockhart has helped firms brand an image of excellence that their clients immediately recognize during ‘moments of truth’ with the versatile, unique features of our world-class tax and report covers. Here’s what one client had to say about how Lockhart helped in their ‘moments of truth’.  never thought it (Lockhart presentation covers) would matter. I wish I had done this (gone with Lockhart) twenty years ago. CPAs need a tangible product to present. That’s what this does.