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The truth behind CPA firm client satisfaction

January 28, 2014
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By Jean Marie Caragher, President of Capstone Marketing

The improving economy may cause CPAs to be overconfident about their ability to retain clients. In the 2011 PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues Survey, retention of current clients showed up on every segment’s top-five list, while it only made two groups’ top five in 2013 (sole practitioners, and firms with 11-20 professionals). Firms seem to be shifting their emphasis to bringing in new clients. And, whose clients are your competitors targeting? Yours!

Client retention can boost your firm’s profitability. According to Bain & Co., a five percent increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75 percent.

Client retention is kind to your budget. Attracting new customers will cost your company five times more than keeping an existing customer, according to Lee Resources Inc.

the majority of CPA firms do not have a formal process to measure client satisfaction, according to The SevenKeys to Successful CPA Firm Management. CPAs are relying on real-time client feedback, those casual, unstructured conversations that may or may not be shared with the rest of the engagement team.

Every CPA firm proclaims that they deliver excellent client service.

Yet, there is a disconnect. According to a statistic provided by Bain & Co. in the Harvard Management Update, 80 percent of companies surveyed said that they offer superior customer service, but only eight percent of their customers agreed with them.

In research conducted by the Bay Street Group for The SevenKeys to Successful CPA Firm Management, 70 percent of clients said the #1 reason they would change CPA firms is “poor client service, attentiveness.” Yet only 22 percent of CPAs rated “poor client service, attentiveness” as a reason why they lose clients. CPAs worry more about fees (63 percent) and clients that die, sell or go out of business (55 percent). Sure cost is a factor to clients (at 63 percent), but the findings suggest that CPAs should be worrying at least as much about client service as about fees.

The truth about CPA firm client satisfaction is that most CPAs are unwilling to measure it. This is counterintuitive since CPAs are viewed as their clients’ most trusted advisors. CPAs provide valuable services to aid in their clients’ business success and financial well-being. Long-term CPA-client relationships are developed and nurtured.

Tax season is the perfect time to gauge the level of satisfaction of your client base. This is the time of year when you are face-to-face with the majority of your clients. Ask important questions. Encourage your staff to build relationships with them.

Then, be willing to measure your firm’s level of client satisfaction. Download a complimentary eBook, Client Satisfaction Surveys for CPA Firms: The Answers to Your Most Frequently Asked Questions, to get started.

Jean Marie Caragher is president of Capstone Marketing, providing marketing consulting services to CPA firms including Brand Surgery, marketing and strategic planning, client satisfaction and retention, inbound marketing, retreat facilitation, and training. For more information, and to learn how to create a client satisfaction-retention program for your firm, contanct Jean at 858-737-4762 or [email protected].

About the Author


Raleigh, N.C.-based Sageworks, a leading provider of lending, credit risk, and portfolio risk software that enables banks and credit unions to efficiently grow and improve the borrower experience, was founded in 1998. Using its platform, Sageworks analyzed over 11.5 million loans, aggregated the corresponding loan data, and created the largest

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