Rimess was also active in marketing to raise public awareness of the company so that the heads of organisations in need of accountants, auditors or business advisers would know that Rimess was a worthy choice. By the middle of the first decade of the noughties, Rimess had an impressive client base: thousands of accounting, audit and advisory clients from both the public and private sectors.
The ever-increasing number of clients and employees highlighted the need for a more systematic approach to client service – all the more so because the goal was to strengthen the image of Rimess as a service provider from whom the client could get all the business support services they needed, not just accounting or auditing. Consequently, it was necessary to more effectively aggregate client information so that all employees had an overview of what services were being provided to one client or another and when they were provided, and to be able to recommend new services to clients.
The financial crisis that hit in autumn 2008 also ‘contributed’ as a catalyst for change, pushing the firm to consider efficiency even more than before. As such, it was emphasised that all of the company’s employees had to become active salespeople who, in addition to their own area of expertise, needed to be able to see the company as a whole: if a client didn’t want the services of their own department, perhaps they would benefit from the work of their colleagues.
Artur Suits, Partner in Charge of Advisory Services, recalls that in the 1990s and the first half of the new century, the main focus was on the quality of client service. Later on, values became more and more important as well. “What is quality service?” he asks, recalling topics he has discussed with his colleagues over the years. “Is it that the job gets done on time and well? But that’s what the client expects, so quality should go a little beyond expectations.”
Changes gained new momentum in 2012. That was when Rimess Baltic joined Grant Thornton, an international network of audit firms, and Gerli Soosalu took over as marketing and communications manager. “Rimess had gotten big and it would’ve been difficult to continue with the family business model that had worked well up to that point,” Soosalu recalls. “Society also started to pay more attention to soft values in communication with both clients and employees, and Grant Thornton’s culture supported that.”
Previously, Rimess had focused on brand awareness and reputation, but when it joined Grant Thornton, its focus shifted to client relationships and building up a systematic client experience. The new head of marketing and communications, together with partners and Head of People & Culture Marge Litvinova, started to develop a new client service standard. The notion that all staff, from assistants to partners, were service employees was also introduced. Soosalu explains: “We wanted to remind everyone that we’re also service providers to our colleagues. If, for example, an accountant asks the Tax Advice Department for something for a client, the accountant’s question must be answered as thoroughly and quickly as any external client’s query.”
The goal of these innovations was to transform Grant Thornton Rimess Baltic from a service provider into a client-centric company that not only stood out by providing a quality service – which has been Rimess’s trump card all along – but also by providing an excellent service experience that left the client with a positive impression so that they would want to continue working with the firm for a long time. It is no wonder that client satisfaction surveys repeatedly include praise such as “pleasingly fast and professional communication”, “very friendly and personable team”, “good team that knows how to organise the work according to the client’s needs” and “everything is excellent”.
Seminars and training bring in new clients
You need to make yourself visible and memorable in order to reach potential clients, and the presentations by the professionals from Grant Thornton Baltic at conferences, on the radio and in the columns of media publications serve precisely this purpose. All of this makes Gerli Soosalu very happy. “Our specialists stand out in public,” she says. “We publish articles in our field, journalists ask us for our comments and we’re invited to speak to and train people. Fostering a reputation as an expert is an important, albeit time-consuming, part of the work of our specialists and is something that needs to be addressed on an ongoing basis.”
Consistency is reflected in decades of work with the public. For example, Mati Nõmmiste needed no introduction even in the early nineties, as he was a recognised lecturer in accounting training. Other colleagues, both partners and heads of department, subsequently joined the list of respected trainers.
Head of Legal Kristel Tiits recalls a story from Tartu in autumn 2019, where the Estonian Annual Agricultural Exhibition was held for the first time, including seminars. She spoke at one of them, introducing the nuanced world of labour law. “After the presentation I was approached by the manager of a large agricultural company who had some questions and interesting ideas about employment relationships,” she explains. “Over a chat and a cup of coffee we agreed on the possibilities of cooperation, and their company became a client of our legal advisory services and soon entrusted us with auditing their company as well.”
In autumn 2019, Grant Thornton Baltic presented itself at the first Estonian Annual Agricultural Exhibition, which resulted in a number of new clients. Pictured: Client Experience Manager Terje Liiv and then Client Relationships Manager Raili Ilves.