Managing Director Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting UK
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Virtual accountancy: How to connect with clients

7th Jul 2020
Managing Director Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting UK
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Now that much of the world’s workforce has adapted to remote and home working, communication, for the most part, has gone completely virtual.

The transition has come naturally for many companies that embraced available technology to run meetings, seminars and events virtually. I greatly admire the way accountants are adapting and helping to keep society running.

Working side by side with our customers, I’ve seen accounting firms adopt numerous new approaches to increasing visibility in the absence of face-to-face contact. This article presents a few ideas practices can consider to optimise engagement with clients in the current environment.

It’s about visibility

Beyond the ubiquitous video conferencing apps, there are other ways to increase visibility, particularly if you’re an advisor working from home and looking for better engagement with clients.

It’s all about visibility. When you’re in the office, it’s easy to call on a colleague to obtain a quick status update. When working remotely, it’s not quite the same. You need to track jobs through different stages and know who is doing what to ensure you spot and resolve any issues before turn into problems.

Workflow and task management tools are invaluable for this task. The software helps practices to define their processes and track at a glance which stage different assignments have reached. With the right tools in place, your employees know what’s expected of them; they know their priorities and can assign tasks to others to ensure good workload management and avoid bottlenecks.

Digital dashboards give supervisors greater visibility of what’s being undertaken across your practice.

All of this is great news for the client because, if they so choose, a practice can make their data visible to all relevnt employees. When colleagues can share updates and support the client’s needs on the spot, clients no longer have to wait a specific individual to respond. With the right governance in place, this can be a real productivity advantage.

Document management opens up other avenues for visibility. Some firms still use emails as document management systems, which ends up channelling important information into individuals’ inboxes. Document management systems capture emails as they come in and leave the practice, so the data can be retrieved more easily, making for an infinitely more efficient client experience. When practices have digital files, they can ensure multiple people can access information and work collaboratively on documents at any time to save yet more time.

Aim higher with virtual meetings

By now, most practices have realised the value of videoconferencing for meetings. However, since virtual meetings are currently our own only option, firms may be looking for ways to make video calls are as engaging as possible. Here are two tips that we are seeing working well:

  • Plan the agenda carefully and share it in advance: running virtual meetings may be uncharted territory for some practitioners, but it helps to think of them in the same way as face-to-face meetings. You wouldn’t plan most meetings without an agenda, and most of us have agendas in place for weekly calls too. With virtual meetings, the agenda may need more context. The purpose and theme of the discussion may need to be more defined and repeated throughout to keep attendees engaged and on track. If there are multiple speakers, it’s important to ensure that they are stick to the intended purpose and theme.
  • Co-create virtual meeting styles: Consistency is important if we want virtual meetings to really engage. Having a consistent virtual style can really help. Having speakers in well-lit rooms with minimal background noise is essential, and approved corporate backgrounds are a great way to promote consistency.

As we’re using technology more than ever before to communicate, many of our customers are telling us that what seemed like technology ‘workarounds’ or bridging the gap scenarios, are actually now seen as powerful tools that practices are likely to deploy more, now and in the future.

Many firms already on the path to digitalisation have been rewarded during this period of remote working and online collaboration for their investment in technology to deal with the changing times. That lesson is worth learning for other accountants who may be on the lookout for tools that will help them thrive and compete in a post-Covid-19 world.

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