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Developing local connections and maintaining personalised service for individual clients is a challenge for any professional services firm. It is even harder for large firms operating nationwide; the threat of fragmentation devaluing the brand is real.

But for accounting firm RSM, combining the bespoke service of a boutique firm with the reach and capabilities of a large firm operating across Australia has been fundamental to its continuing success. RSM recently won three Client Choice Awards for Best Accounting and Consulting Services Firm (>$200m), Best Professional Services Firm (>$200m) and Best Provider to Government and Community, and was nominated a finalist in the category of Best CX Firm – Accounting and Consulting Services.

Notably, winning the Best Professional Services Firm (>$200m) award capped off five years of consecutive RSM wins in the category.

Chief Executive Partner Jamie O’Rourke said his team was “thrilled and humbled to be recognised” for the fifth year.

“The news came in the same week we celebrated the firm’s 101st birthday so it was gratifying to hear that the exceptional client service the firm has been founded on is still intrinsically in our culture,” said O’Rourke.

“This recognition is testament to the quality of service we provide to our clients, and we are grateful for the opportunity to celebrate this accomplishment … An award like this isn’t earned by one person – it truly is the result of a collective effort of the talented and dedicated team at RSM.”

O’Rourke identified a handful of client service areas that he said “make RSM shine” and stand out in what is becoming an increasingly contested accounting market across Australia and New Zealand.

“The first is personalised service. We take the time to get to know our clients’ unique needs and goals, and we tailor our services to meet those specific needs,” he said.

“We understand that every business is different, and we work closely with our clients to ensure that we provide customised solutions that work for them. We provide many of our clients with multiple service offerings and what this allows us to do is to get to know the client very well, with knowledge transfer about the client happening seamlessly between our team of specialists who service them.

“As we are a national firm with deep roots across Australia, we bring a great blend of local knowledge and understanding combined with a wealth of knowledge and expertise. It’s a winning combination, because it’s really the best of both worlds.”

The Client Choice Awards are the only professional services awards in the world that are judged entirely by client feedback, rather than industry experts or judging panels. Entering the awards provides an opportunity for firms to be objectively assessed compared to their competitors by the most important judges of all: clients.

More than 270 firms entered in 2023, the highest number in 20 years of the awards, and Beaton analysed more than 17,000 pieces of individual client feedback in the research process.

“The Awards have also become the gold standard for measuring what the market really thinks about professional services firms and the quality of their client service,” O’Rourke said.

“As we are benchmarked against similar firms, clients can have the confidence that they are working with a reputable firm that is right up there with engagement, experience and value.

“This year, winning in the Best Provider to Government and Community category was a reflection of our deep expertise in the sector, as a leading provider of accounting and advisory services to government departments, state government agencies and local government authorities. Clients in this sector operate in a tough environment and we are well poised to help them, where the management of risk, financial accountability and performance are always under scrutiny.”

Extensive Beaton research into client experience across Australia and New Zealand has shown large firms may be well equipped with resources, but tend to face ongoing challenges in maintaining consistent client service standards across their myriad teams. It’s a risk RSM readily identifies and monitors, with 1750 staff spread across 32 offices in Australia. O’Rourke says the firm carefully analyses and responds to feedback from the Client Choice Awards and Beaton Benchmarks to keep its client experience excellent across the board.

“We are constantly monitoring our service levels and looking for ways to improve client experience within RSM,” he said.

“We have recently undertaken an exercise akin to mystery shopping, to determine the time we take to respond to new client queries and the quality of those responses …Whether you are a regional or a metropolitan client, we ensure that there is no change in the promptness, reliability and accuracy of services rendered.

“Using Beaton Benchmarks has been a valuable tool helping us improve our client service by providing us with valuable insights into our clients’ needs and expectations … The reports have also helped us identify areas where we excel. By understanding our strengths, we can continue to focus on these areas and differentiate ourselves in the market.”

O’Rourke said professional services firms are facing many “critical” challenges in the modern market. These include current competition to attract and retain the best talent, staying abreast of regulatory and compliance changes, and the need to adapt quickly to new technologies and business models. Clients are constantly demanding more efficient service and digital solutions, he said, which necessitates endless innovation from firms.

But despite all the changes and technology, O’Rourke said there was an age-old investment that has provided the best returns for as long as RSM has provided accounting services. That is, investing in the people carrying the firm.

“The one thing professional services firms should focus on right now for success is caring for and developing their people,” he said.

“Having an engaged team means we are able to deepen relationships with our clients, built on trust and integrity. While technology and automation are important, and data analytics and DE&I initiatives are critical for the future of the industry, at the end of the day, it is the strength of the relationships that professional services firms have with their clients that will determine their success.

“Clients want to work with firms that they trust, that understand their needs and challenges, and that can provide personalised and tailored solutions to meet those needs … We should never lose sight of the fact that it is the strength of the relationships we have with our clients that ultimately determines our success.”

RSM was named winner of Best Accounting and Consulting Services Firm (>$200m), Best Professional Services Firm (>$200m) and Best Provider to Government and Community in the 2023 Client Choice Awards. These awards are presented in partnership with FeeSynergy and the Australian Council of Professions association partner Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand.

Enter your firm for the 2024 awards here.