AM Uncovered: Automated record requests and reminders

12th Jul 2021
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Accountancy Manager
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You didn’t go into accountancy or start your business because you love chasing your clients. Now, thanks to automation, you don’t have to. Hear from practice owners that have reclaimed hours of time, by leaving all their chasing to AM. 

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Different people and practices will adopt AccountancyManager in different ways. For example, you might begin with the Task List, then the Client Portal, then perhaps Onboarding and AML. 

While we’d never dream of telling you where to start, if we did, it’d be with automated requests and reminders. These simply (and rather cleverly) ask your client to supply what you need when you need it, then chase your client until they respond. 

It saves us at least 75% of the day. We were spending a lot of time on maintaining clients, sending them reminders…” 

- Zia Tahir, Spherical Accountants

But it doesn’t end there. You can also send automatic messages thanking clients for their records, reminding them to pay tax, asking them for specific missing details. All of this, with no intervention from you. Of course, it’s natural to be concerned about passing over such huge responsibility, so see how these AM users have faced their fears - and if it’s worth it.

Hundreds of 5-minute emails soon adds up...

Buhir Rafiq. He’s owned Total Books for over 10 years and has offices in Cardiff and Bristol. Previously, Buhir worked at Critchleys, Haines Watt and the National Audit Office. “We’ve set up automation for a lot of things,” he says. “I've got reminders going out for self assessment, requests for records for corporation tax, limited company, payroll and VAT records…”

We've automated stuff that we had to do 50 or 100 times a year.”

- Buhir Rafiq, Total Books

“We used to write these differently every time and spend 20 minutes typing each one. I don't have to think about it anymore, they just go out automatically. Then, as soon as we get the records, we just click 'records received’ on the task’s progress. Then another polite reminder gets auto generated that says ‘records received’. Lots of polite email touch points adds to professionality.”

Say I've got 20 VAT returns. That's 20 reminders, x3 before we get the records. That's 60 reminders I don't have to email out because they’re all automated.”

- Buhir Rafiq, Total Books

A quick recap on how it works

1. Select the services you’re providing your client

When you add a new client to AccountancyManager, select the services they need in their client file - such as VAT, Payroll, Self Assessment etc. 

2. Sync AM with Companies House

Pull through all your client’s accounting dates and deadlines. These dates control when a task is created on your Task List and when your client will receive an email or text. 

3. Use our 40+ ready-made templates or write your own

You have complete control over exactly what the emails and texts say. We’ve written over 40 basic templates for you, but you can edit them or start from scratch.

4. Personalise emails and texts with over 400 variables

You have complete control over exactly what the emails and texts say and you can add in over 400 different variables, such as <NAME> <BANK NAME> to make them highly personalised to each client.

5. Choose when you want to chase clients

Set how many days after or before a deadline to send an email or text. Here, the client would get a message on day one after their period end, 30 days after and so on.

6. Set up your other automations

Don’t forget, you can also set up tax payment reminders and missing information requests too, if a mandatory client information field remains blank on the system.

Create a familiar routine for your clients (and your team)

Anna Nikolovska, owner of Digital Accounting, is well known to our support team. Not because she has lots of problems, but because she’s constantly exploring the nooks and crannies of AM. Anna has discovered an unexpected bonus of using automated reminders, giving her clients structure to what they need to supply and when. 

People just get in that routine of every month, every quarter, what they need to send us.”

- Anna Nikolovska, Digital Accounting

“They get their reminders as soon as their VAT quarter ends or the CIS month ends.” Anna explained.” The fact that we always do it on the same day of the month and it's always the same template, people just get in that routine of every month, every quarter, what they need to send us.”

Never forget to ask for information (you might even receive it before you do)

Some of Ben Steele’s clients at Steele Financial in Bristol have become so familiar with the pattern, they provide things early. “It creates this routine between you and the client - sometimes it even makes clients do it before the email's got to them.”

“We had one client recently, say 'I haven't had that monthly email from you guys’. Now, there was a reason for that, but it shows that clients get used to these reminders. It also means that we don't miss stuff - we don't forget to ask clients for information, we don't forget to chase them.”

It creates this routine between you and the client - sometimes it even makes clients do it before the email's got to them.”

- Ben Steele, Steele Financial

Khyam Chudhry at Fortuous Limited appreciates this too. “Let's imagine I'm doing it manually,” he explains, “I'm sending all these reminders - what if I make an error or I’m not available? I could be sick. I could be busy. I could be doing some million other things, right? At least your side of the job is done. You have reminded clients that you need to do these things and you can prove on the timeline.” (The Client Timelime records and timestamps every email you or AM sends to each client and any you receive from them.)

Like to be in control? No problem, just pause the queue.

Ben Steele is no stranger to the fear of entrusting client reminders to a software. Luckily, there’s the option to look over emails, texts and who they’re going to, before they go out. “It might be the control freak in me,” Ben admits, “but we've set the emails to pause. So the emails will create automatically every month or period end. Everybody is assigned their own clients and they check the emails.”

Boom, boom, boom, before you know it every client has a tailored email asking for what we need.” 

- Ben Steele, Steele Financial

Chris Blunn, co-owner of Praxis is one of our most recent interviewees. He has brought over a raft of clients from his previous firm, Haines Watt. Maintaining a high level of professionality and responsiveness to these clients has been key in the first year of Praxis. 

“We were nervous about emails going out without being first vetted.” Said Chris. “Then I realised that you can just pause the entire queue by default. Now we’ve started to use a lot more of the automation for things like chasing records, HMRC agent codes, mailshots - like, technical updates to clients - because the ‘email all’ feature is really good too.”

I can go into AccountancyManager now and it's automatically generated those 'records chasers' because the year end has passed.”

- Chris Blunn, Praxis 

So was it worth it? “Automated emails are great.” Chris said. We’ll take that as a yes. “In the past, you’d find last year's email and click 'forward' and adjust it. But importantly, what AccountancyManager does, is the automation. I can go into AccountancyManager now and it's automatically generated those 'records chasers' because the year end has passed.

"Now, I don't have to schedule time once a month to look at our total client list, sort by year end date and see who I need to contact. It's all of those little nudges. They're really, really valuable.”

I thought I’d just use AM for my scheduling, not the automation side, but I should’ve switched it on from day one.” 

- Carolyn Cullen, Monton Green Accountancy

Finally, Carolyn Cullen at Monton Green Accountancy in Eccles experienced the same thing. Putting automated reminders off for a few months into using AccountancyManager. “I had thought, I don't know if I want to automate certain things, what if it doesn't work?’ Now that I’ve got it, it’s brilliant. Clients respond so much quicker, I get information out a lot quicker. It works really, really well. I thought I’d  just use AM for my scheduling, not the automation side, but I should’ve switched that on from day one.” 

I find it brilliant, from the time saved not chasing clients to getting the information earlier.”

- Carolyn Cullen, Monton Green Accountancy

Good riddance to busy season 

In the not too distant future, Self Assessment will be all MTD’d up, allowing you and your clients to submit self assessment tax returns quarterly. For us at AM and Andy Sullivan, owner of Complete HQ down in Cornwall, this mirrors what we’ve been trying to do all along. Getting self assesments done as early as possible. 

The better your systems are for chasing people for tax information, the less stressful your Christmas and New Year are...”

- Andy Sullivan, owner of Complete HQ

“One thing AM has massively helped us with this year,” explains Andy, “is getting our tax returns done early. I think by Christmas we had nine left to do and that wasn’t down to us. The automated reminders mean we're not stressing out about tax returns now. We might be stressing about something, but it’s not the self assessments. That's a big thing.”

Johann Goree at JGBC has seen his self assessment process completely transformed. “I turned around to the guys in the meeting one Monday and said, ‘Eighty self-assessment emails went out this morning.’ ‘What?’ [his team replied] ‘What time did you start work this morning?!’ It took me 10 minutes because I just reviewed the list.” The ultimate aim of course, is for you not to have to review the list at all, just let AM do its work and the items you need will just appear.

SMS texts to clients: Giving in to popular demand

When you send automated emails from AccountancyManager to clients, you can choose to send a text at the same time. You might think texting is a bit too ‘casual’ for your clients. Paul Cain at Cain and Beer (of East London’s infamous Curry and Beer networking events) had the same thought. But his clients surprised him...

“I'm a bit old-fashioned” Paul admits, “but I actually like the texts (AM) sends to clients. Because although I may not like it or think it's not overly professional, other people are quite happy with it.” In fact, we’ve heard many AM users report faster response times if you text, as well as email, clients with requests. 

Free yourself up for a natter (the conversations that matter)

Our users often talk about the time they save with AM’s automation, so we like to hear how exactly they use this time. Harry Walker and the team at Harry Walker Accountancy automate everything they can with AM. 

If you can take half an hour of time out of chasing, that's half an hour you can spend giving your clients the best service possible.”

- Harry Walker, Harry Walker Accountancy

“Record requests, tax payment reminders, all of those time-draining tasks are taken care of by AccountancyManager.” Harry tells us. “The email automation is great, it gives you more time to spend with your clients. Personally, I spend it on working on the business. It frees me up to be able to improve our service. The staff spend it on taking the time really needed to provide the best service possible to their clients.”

We want [our] people to be focussed on client service and talking to clients, not hassling them.”

- Chris Blunn, Praxis

“It's not about taking people's jobs away. It really isn't.” Chris at Praxis adds. “We want to run a firm that has people in it, but we want those people to be focussed on client service and talking to clients, not hassling them or remembering to hassle them or sending stuff out and realising you’ve sent the wrong thing. It allows us to focus on the relationship more than the process.”

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