29 July 2013

New business enquiries: too taxing for accountancy and legal firms?

Despite tough times, professional services firms still slow to respond to new business opportunities

Research into how accountancy and law firms deal with direct new business enquiries highlights a gulf in both response times and fee levels. The research was undertaken by BD specialist Andrew Pincott on behalf of Farrer Kane. The research was based upon real scenarios, not a fictitious mystery shopper exercise and at least one firm has been appointed on conclusion of this research.

50 mid-tier accountancy and law firms based in London and the South East were contacted for advice and cost estimates for specific services including the preparation of wills and advice upon setting up a limited company. Approaches were made through either generic email addresses or website contact forms. Key findings include:

45% of accountancy firms failed to respond to the enquiry

28% of law firms failed to respond to the enquiry

80% of non-respondents' websites said they provided requested advice yet they didn't deliver

Wide spread of response times from one hour to eight days

Cost estimates varied greatly, even between local competitors  

Only two out of the 50 firms followed up with relevant promotional literature

Cost estimates

The cost estimates for standard advice on personal and company set-up matters varied dramatically even between local competitors. Costs quoted for producing 'basic matched wills' ranged from £295 to £1,250 while the estimates for company formation varied between £400 and £3,000.

Only half of those that responded provided initial quotations for the services requested whilst a quarter provided costs but gave no indication of the extent or scope of the services.


In comparing the response times between the two professions, law firms came out on top and were quicker to respond. The accountants tended to favour responding in writing, with 80% replying by email, whereas lawyers preferred a more direct approach, and were as likely to respond by telephone as by email.

Andrew Pincott, lead researcher said: "The mid-tier accounting and legal market is one of the most crowded and competitive. Yet despite business development having moved up the agenda, often with sophisticated marketing programmes, too many firms are still making basic errors when responding (or not) to prospective enquiries. Although the research only provides a snapshot of a large marketplace it gives a fair indication that some firms' ability to deliver will be tested by both consumers and procurement teams keen to compare their merits."

Beth Farrer, Director at communications agency Farrer Kane concluded: "Almost without exception firms indicate on their website their commitment to client service, responsiveness and personal approach. This exercise highlights that in reality some firms struggle to deliver on their brand promises and values committed to paper aren't embedded in actual behaviour. Those firms that do live up to their promises will differentiate themselves to an ever-more discerning client base."

For a copy of the full report, please email info@farrerkane.com