It is recommended that clients be transitioned over a two- or three-year period to ensure that there is adequate time to made adjustments to the transition plan. The following six steps should be taken when transitioning clients from one relationship owner to another:
1. Identify key clients. You don’t have to worry about every client, but it is important to take care of your most important clients. When you identify key clients, consider the following factors:
· Audit or tax client;
· Annual fees;
· Services provided;
· Realization and profitability of the engagement;
· Client reputation in the market place;
· Importance of client to your niche area; and
· History of client services and service peculiarities about the client.
2. Identify key client advisors. Care must be taken when transitioning a client to a new service provider. The ideal situation would be to transition the client to another partner or manager who already has familiarity with the client. Having more than one person in the firm serving as a relationship manager is a foundational strategy for effective client transition. When you identify key client advisors, consider the following factors:
· The individual’s knowledge of the client and/or the industry/niche;
· The chemistry and personality of the new advisor with the client;
· The existing work load of the new advisor;
· The willingness and enthusiasm of the new advisors to take on the client; and
· A key client account should never be pushed to another service provider.
3. Up front communication. Involve the client in the transition process. First, inform the client that you will be retiring in the next two or three years. Second, make sure that the client continues to receive the same level of service. Third, have a discussion with the client about the potential person who will take over the account. Fourth, introduce the client to the individual so the client can become comfortable with the new service provider while you are still with the firm.
4. One-on-one meetings. Key client accounts deserve and require a face-to-face meeting. This is an important time to let the client know your retirement plans and get the client’s input into the transition plan.
5. Maintain fees. During the first year of transition, maintain current fees or raise them slightly. It is important that you do not provide the client with opportunities to look elsewhere.
6. First year follow-up meeting. Have a follow-up meeting with the client after six months or one year. This provides the client with an opportunity to voice any dissatisfaction with the service or service provider.
About the author: August Aquila is a well-known speaker, author, and consultant to the accounting profession. He has advised firms ranging from $1m to over $55m on succession and retirement planning. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 952.930.1295. For more information visit: www.aquilaadvisors.com