Client relationships are at the heart of all practices and the way these relationships manifest differs widely from firm to firm and client to client.
Some clients expect to have regular conversations with their accountants and some others just want to see their accountant once a year to give them a bag full of receipts.
But no matter how often you communicate with your clients, there is always room for improvement when it comes to finding the most effective ways to exchange information that will benefit both parties.
The role of technology
In the first episode of our two-part series about client collaboration, AccountingWEB’s editor Tom Herbert discussed with Ian Cooper, product manager non-tax products at Thomson Reuters and Chris Dodd, partner at Beresfords Chartered Accountants how client collaboration has changed in recent years and the role that technology has played in the process.
The following are some of the factors that have shifted clients’ expectations.
Technology has largely influenced client behaviour. The advent of online bookkeeping a decade ago changed the clients’ expectations. With an increased level of automation in areas such as receipt entry and data collection, accountants are now expected to work with and provide real-time information.
Nowadays, accountants and clients can also work on certain files collaboratively with portals. This means that firms can see their clients’ data easily and clients can get advice from their accountants exactly when they need it.
The proliferation of consumer apps is also driving the change. Clients are more used to using different online systems regularly and now expect the same from their accountants. This, alongside the ease of use of the new systems is making it easier for accountants to get clients to sign up and use portals effectively.
Accountants have traditionally sent a huge amount of information via email. This causes a lack of audit around the use that clients make of the documents once they receive them, as you can’t actually see whether they have read them or if they have taken any necessary actions.
A portal can tell exactly what the clients have done with the documents, improving visibility for practices and providing valuable information about where clients are at. Portals also increase efficiency through collaboration, enabling accountants to work more efficiently with their clients.
As highlighted by Ian and Chris in the webinar, security is crucial and it’s one of the main reasons why so many firms use portals. Accountants and clients want the ability to access data from anywhere and for it to be securely stored in GDPR-compliant systems.
In the podcast, Dodd and Cooper discuss these and other key reasons why portals make sense in a modern practice, as well as the importance of training clients and other strategies followed by tech-savvy firms.