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Working with clients in the new normal

14th Dec 2020
Brought to you by
Sage new logo

Sage is the market leader for integrated accounting.

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There can be nothing more unsettling than being in business and realising that the world is moving on – but that you’re failing to match the pace.

Yet this is the situation with many accountancy practices across the UK, even if these practices are otherwise healthy.

In this article we will look at how client’s needs and expectations are changing and the warning signs of underperforming practice.

Clients in the new normal

The coronavirus disruption of 2020 has been challenging, to say the least. And it is now clear it’s continuing well into 2021.

This has created a new business landscape – a new normal. The things clients do, and the plans and aspirations they have, have changed.

So how has 2020 affected clients?

In June 2020, Sage conducted research amongst 2,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the UK to provide a snapshot of responses to the coronavirus disruption, as well as confidence moving forward.

It revealed what measures businesses are taking to respond during these unprecedented times. Headline results from the research revealed that the biggest challenges for businesses were adapting to restrictions (65%), reduced demand (44%), cash flow problems (39%) and supply chain disruption (32%).

As our research shows, the people behind businesses are struggling. They feel uncertain and are responding how best they can. However, they need help, and they’re turning to core professionals such as accountants to simply survive.

Below, are 4 warning signs that your practice may be underperforming when it comes to client services:

Warning sign 1: There are too many systems in place

Put simply, your team wastes time trying to connect data from different products and apps. Speadsheets are amazing but not if you have 20 of them containing vital client information – one for names and addresses, another for fee calculations, another for VAT calculations and so on.

No manager wants to make key businesses decisions based on limited or out-of-date information, and yet many managers spend hours examining financial information presented via different products and apps. It also introduces more potential for error into how your overall team works.

This disjointed workflow makes it harder for you to pull together the information you need to make informed management decision about the future of your practice.

Warning sign 2: You’re working on the wrong things

The nature of using multiple products and apps and storing client information in many places means your team must input key account information in many different places.

Here’s the problem: This way of working takes a significant amount of time at the end of a month or quarter; and many teams says this is time they could better spend answering queries, discussing ideas for new promotions or preparing the accounts of key clients.

If your team is spending time manually inputting information like expenses or on other administrative tasks, your business is wasting valuable billable hours on unproductive tasks.

Warning sign 3: There’s a lack of collaboration

You might go out of your way to address inefficient business processes, but have you considered the way your team shares client information with each other?

For example, you may be using a product or spreadsheet to compile financial data related to clients and accounts receivable. But employees might be using their own systems, documents or apps to collate information about clients throughout their working day – making it difficult to get on the same page as the client should they call.

Working with multiple versions of client information is an inefficient way of collaborating, and isn’t the way of today’s growing practices.

Warning sign 4: You’re tied to a timesheet

The timesheet has ruled accountancy for too long. It’s time to move on.

It’s rooted in antiquated thinking that makes it harder to leverage tools that increase efficiency, such as automation.

You could argue that you don’t want to increase efficiency when you bill by the hour. But progressive firms are pricing around the value they deliver, and billing clients in packages based on this value that they receive – not the time they spend on importing data.

Technology and this billing model allows you to deliver more value in the same of time, and bill at much higher rates for the advisory services than for the manual data entry.

Conclusion

Understanding clients needs and how best you can serve them has been the starting point for countless generations of accountants. What fewer accountants realise, however, is that this must be a continuous process.

This is especially true in difficult times like those that have faced the world recently. 

By becoming a truly responsive practice with technologies, you can increase revenue as well as overall satisfaction.

Meet the demands of today and start streamlining your workflows with Sage Accounting and get a free subscription for your practice.