All too often, people—executives, job hunters, the media and, yes, auditors themselves— collectively refer to the Big 4 as a single entity. Together, they dominate the big firm CPA world, their individual brands subsumed by their reputation as a whole.
Yet, like the superhero team The Fantastic Four, each individual member of the Big 4 has a real set of strengths and weaknesses—their superpowers and their vulnerabilities. For those less familiar with the Big 4, these unique qualities may be invisible—much like the names of the individual members of The Fantastic Four are not likely to roll off the tongue. Yet to those most intimate with the Big 4 firms—their clients—these distinct characteristics burst forth with clarity and precision.
Some of the defining differences between the firms are stark:
- PwC delivers practical perfection with an unwavering commitment to help streamline the audit
- Deloitte embodies a client-centric approach to drive the greatest value of the Big 4
- Ernst & Young deftly maneuvers the audit through problems with exceptional technical skills
- KPMG offers a quality, “no-frills” solution to the audit
Each firm’s unique personality and approach drive different levels of client satisfaction. Overall, 60% of large companies recommend their Big 4 audit firm. The client satisfaction rate with each Big 4 firm individually ranges from 54% to 67%.
Considering the spread, client service prowess serves as a key source of differentiation among the Big 4. The firms on the lower end of the range can close the client satisfaction gap by embracing new client thinking about service delivery. This new thinking, according to the research, includes evolving expectations of exactly how the Big 4 firms handle the audit – and their relationships. The standout Big 4 firm will use these redefined expectations to their advantage.