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Coronavirus: 5 ways to support your clients

23rd Apr 2020
Brought to you by
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Sage is the market leader for integrated accounting.

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Over the past weeks, the effects of Coronavirus have presented unanticipated challenges to businesses. As accountants and bookkeepers, you are best placed to understand the financial impact that this outbreak will have on each of your client’s businesses and advise them on the best course action available to them.

By following a series of steps, you can offer valuable support to your clients during this exceptionally difficult period. Many small businesses are simply fighting to stay solvent and will be looking to you, as a trusted advisor, to provide reassurance and guidance.

With this in mind, Sage has put together some ideas for assisting your clients and building trust.

How accountants and bookkeepers can add value in the current climate

There is a broad range of services you can offer as an accountant or bookkeeper when faced with a client who is struggling. We have put together five ways you can support your clients and we have added advice from two Sage accountants to see what plans they have in place.

  1. Offer the correct knowledge

Be prepared to fill the gap between your client’s knowledge and the coronavirus government legislations.

For example, if your client is considering furloughing staff it may be useful to assert knowledge of employment and contract law. As an accountant, you may already have this knowledge, and if not, you’re better placed to learn about it than the client. By being proactive you will save time for your clients and provide clarity so that you can move forward.

  1. Communicate regularly

When there is a crisis, clients want to know that there is someone there who cares about their business. Ensure you keep in touch and emphasise that they must do the same. Some of the conversations you have could be more emotional than usual, but by keeping calm and reassuring can go a long way.

Nicky Larkin from Goringe Accountants has spoken to Sage about her plans on how to keep in regular contact with clients, “My practice as a whole is making sure that we’re talking to all of our clients,” says Larkin.

“Personally, I’m splitting my time between doing that with the clients and also providing different webinars and guidance to the business community. We’re also lobbying the government on behalf of small businesses.”

  1. Support with loan applications

Clients are likely to need help with knowledge of the government schemes to get through grant or loan applications. Some of these applications are going to be vital for their continuation. You may also need to provide key financial reports for them. By staying up to date with the government guidance, you will be able to advise clients on where they can make easy gains.

This has not been a problem for Finlayson & Co, which has taken a proactive approach. Practice manager, Emily Smith says “We’re offering telephone support even outside of work hours, so if they’re struggling processing grant applications or help with accounts to access a loan, we’re there for them when needed.”

  1. Technical support

With in-person client meetings on hold, your clients will be working with you remotely to go over their financials. If you are a small business accountant, now is a good time to make your clients comfortable with their cloud accounting software and provide support on any areas they aren’t not sure about.

As well as this, by supporting this area of remote working, you could offer a valuable service to your clients.  Any help you can provide will be undoubtably warmly received.

For those practices not in the cloud – or perhaps not fully – there are other solutions.

“We’ve got clients that are on desktop apps,” says Larkin. “A virtual desktop is the solution.”

  1. Provide financial information and advice

Help your clients by advising what financial support is available to them, such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, loan and grant offerings, and HMRC’s Time to Pay.

It’s a good idea to segment your client base depending on who is likely to require more help, or who may need certain kinds of funding or support from the emergency legislation.

You might even create group video meetings with these clients, or webinars, to discuss what they can do.

Conclusion

The role of a trusted adviser has never been more relevant. Staying in regular contact with your clients and offering support will be highly valuable during these testing times.

By going the extra mile to provide the assistance that your clients – both existing and new – require at this time, you will be helping them to get through times of uncertainty, you’ll also give your practice the best opportunity to keep thriving both now and in the future.

We hope this has been helpful for you, for all the latest information on Coronavirus support tools, please visiting the Sage Coronavirus Hub.